CHIEFS 41 BLUES 26

Good job no one got too carried away with the Blues last week as the Chiefs gave them a reality check in Hamilton.

Well, in truth, the Blues gave themselves one. Or more accurately than that, even, Steven Luatua forced one upon them after he was sent off on the stroke of halftime.

Who knows what might have happened had he stayed on because by the final quarter of the game, even a man down, the Blues were in control of the game and dominating the key areas of the contest.

They scored three well structured tries and showed a combination of courage, commitment and creativity to keep things respectable. More than respectable, really, because the gap closed to near worrying proportions for the Chiefs.

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What the Blues will be able to conclude is that when they have their full contingent of All Blacks on the park, they are a different team. All of Charlie Faumuina, Jerome Kaino, Patrick Tuipulotu and George Moala made an impact off the bench.

All four of them had a hand in transforming the momentum back to the Blues, but of course, by then it was too late.

Legitimately, the Blues are going to pinpoint the sending off of Luatua on the stroke of halftime as the junction where they took a wrong turn. They were on a bit of a shaky footing before the big blindside somewhat rashly and ill-advisedly stuck his arm out and clobbered Tim Nanai-Williams around the throat.

The Chiefs wing didn't even have the ball and goodness only knows the new edict about zero tolerance for high tackling was made loud and clear before the season started.

The card had to be red and reduced to 14 men, the Blues were in the market for a miracle. Rugby is not like football where a one-man disadvantage doesn't necessarily mean the end of the world.

But in rugby it usually does because while the team with 14 men can scramble in open play and almost cover the space, it's a near impossible business trying to win scrum ball with only seven in the set-piece.

So the Blues were always going to be toast without Luatua. Some may think they were drifting out of the contest before he was ordered off and there is some truth to that.

They were on the backfoot. The Chiefs had the edge at the tackled ball and they were certainly in a different league when it came to their attacking game.

It wasn't as slick as they would like, but for this stage of the season, they'd be happy enough with the way they probed for space and used delayed runners coming into the frontline to hammer through gaps.

That offloading game of theirs was starting to tick and the more phases they built, the more dangerous they looked.

In contrast, the Blues relied heavily in a kicking game that was overdone and not executed well enough. It worked well for them against the Rebels, but against the Chiefs, they didn't pull the ball in the right places.

Any team that kicks badly to the Chiefs is made to pay for it and the Blues learned that the hard way.

What they learned, though, in the second half is that when they kept the ball in hand, they were far more effective. Their performance in the final 20 minutes was encouraging - not just for the heart it showed but also for the direction and punch that they delivered.

Maybe those last 20 minutes are the true guide to how they are tracking.

Chiefs 41 (L. Messam, D. McKenzie, H. Elliot, L. Boshier, J. Lowe. A. Lienert-Brown tries; A. Cruden 4 cons, pens)
Blues 26 (P.Tuipulotu, C. Faumuina, R. Ranger tries; I. West 3 pens, con)