Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Chiefs reaching targets but Blues are still battling

Richard Kahui of the Chiefs dives over to score a try during the match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park. Photo / Getty Images
Richard Kahui of the Chiefs dives over to score a try during the match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park. Photo / Getty Images

The Chiefs reached their targets while the Blues are still scrambling for their next Super 15 victory.

After their 23-16 derby triumph in Mt Maunganui, the bye-bound Chiefs will stay top of the New Zealand conference as they watch the rest of the teams beat each other up.

One of those contests involves the Blues who back up at Eden Park on Friday against the winless Highlanders.

"We couldn't have got a lot more out of our guys but we need to add a little bit of nous under pressure," said Blues coach John Kirwan.

"The Chiefs are the best football team in the competition, they strangled us and they are very good at it."

The only blip for the Chiefs was an ankle ligament injury to prop Ben Afeaki with early reports of a layoff of between three and 10 weeks.

The Chiefs had the measure of their rivals for much of their match but messed a few chances while conceding one try late in a flattering scoreline.

"Our lack of a clinical finish was frustrating but the structures and work to get there was pretty solid," said coach Dave Rennie.

"It was an outstanding defensive effort and as good as any we saw last year. Our attitude was fantastic."

So was the first start for centre Richard Kahui. He gave no glimpses of rust with several strong breaks and his familiar brutal defence. Blues fullback Charles Piutau will remember one tackle when he thought he had beaten the cover but was bludgeoned by a covering Kahui.

"He was fantastic wasn't he?" said Rennie.

The Chiefs made multiple changes for the match but there were no signs of a lack of combinations.

"We are trying to create a lot of competition for places because if you turn out the same team every week they become pretty battered and it is too long a competition for that," said Rennie. "You have to mix things up, so there is an edge at training and in games."

The Chiefs are not due back in camp until later this week while the Blues have a fit squad to prepare for Friday.

"We need to function a little better under pressure but we are not far away and they won the critical moments instead of us and those are the key learnings," Kirwan said.

"As far as courage and commitment and guys having a crack and never giving up we achieved that."

- NZ Herald

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