All Blacks enforcer Jerome Kaino could miss the Blues' opening Super Rugby match against the defending champion Highlanders at Eden Park next Friday night after he was sent off for punching in tonight's final pre-season trial against the Chiefs in Pukekohe.
Blues captain Kaino was red-carded 10 minutes into the second half, although Tana Umaga's side overcame the setback to post a 24-12 victory over the Chiefs who had Aaron Cruden back in their line-up for the first time since the All Blacks first five ruptured his left knee last April.
Kaino punched Chiefs front rower Pauliasi Manu during a maul and the referee wasn't wearing his claim that "I was trying to get my arm free" and marched him. The veteran backrower will face a NZRU judiciary hearing rather than a Sanzar tribunal in coming days and might enjoy more luck as a result.
It was a better night for Cruden who showed some nice touches in his comeback including setting up the game's first try with a perfectly executed cut-out pass in the ninth minute which sent Charlie Ngatai across the line.
The Blues were behind 12-5 at the break after a Patrick Tuipulotu touchdown and a fumbling first half display but tries to halfback Byrn Hall and fullback Lolagi Visinia in a more polished second half effort eventually got them home with former Melbourne Storm league winger Matt Duffie completing a slick long range strike right on fulltime.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes thumped the Crusaders 74-7 in Blenheim in a horror final hitout before the start of the season for Todd Blackadder's men.