Rugby: Chiefs sink Blues at new home

By Kris Shannon in New Plymouth

Chiefs player Tim Nanai-Williams dives in for a try despite the efforts of Blues player, Lolagi Visinia, during tonights Super Rugby match between The Chiefs and The Blues. Photo / Alan Gibson
Chiefs player Tim Nanai-Williams dives in for a try despite the efforts of Blues player, Lolagi Visinia, during tonights Super Rugby match between The Chiefs and The Blues. Photo / Alan Gibson

Chiefs 32
Blues 20

The Chiefs picked their new home to display some of their old form and seize control of the New Zealand conference.

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The defending champions appeared intent on winning over the Taranaki rugby public on their first foray into the region, backing up from last week's big win with some more outstanding attacking play.

A noisy Yarrow Stadium expressed their delight with the efforts of their new Super Rugby side, with several Chiefs chants making them feel like home, and the champs' sixth straight victory over the Blues sent Sir John Kirwan's side away with a 14th consecutive road loss.

Once again, the Chiefs weren't quite at their best, and the Blues had their part to play in that. But in what promised to be an open affair, courtesy of a couple potentially explosive backlines, a few moments of individual brilliance saw the Chiefs emerge triumphant from what at one stage threatened to become a shootout.

It fell short of that status after the Chiefs established a commanding advantage on the scoreboard, thanks to a double from Ben Tameifuna and deserved tries to Tim Nanai-Williams and Tom Marshall. The Chiefs' defence then seemed content to soak up everything the Blues could throw and, knowing they had an extra gear or two if required, who could blame them?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, with only five points separating the sides at opposite ends of the New Zealand conference, parity was the prevailing theme in much of the action. Neither side were allowed to truly impose themselves for any extended length of time, with a pair of disruptive forward packs snaffling turnovers and winning penalties to break up any sustained period of possession.

Even when the Chiefs were in the process of putting five points in the bag, the Blues remained competitive. But in contrast to their hosts, Lolagi Visinia's try in the opening minutes was all the Blues' backs could muster until too late, not helped by Charles Piutau needing assistance from the field having suffered what looked a serious knee injury.

After having a hand in their first try, the Chiefs managed to contain the influence of Ma'a Nonu, immense in last week's win. But Simon Hickey created little inside of him as Gareth Anscombe was the more impressive of the Auckland pivots, directing his side's attack and creating Tameifuna's first with a smart dart for the line.

The prop was brought back into the starting XV after the Chiefs' scrum struggled against the Lions last weekend but the Blues were winning the set piece battle, with the home side's lineout equally shaky in the opening half.

The Chiefs were also missing too many tackles but, fortunately for the champs, their backline was easily the more clinical, with a stunning counter-attack late in the half taking them from one wing to the other and culminating in Nanai-Williams being released by Dwayne Sweeney.

Their seven-point halftime lead had an unexpected air given the way the Blues began the game, but the Chiefs started the second spell the strongest and Tameifuna burrowed over from close range for his second.

Having survived their first defensive test in a bid to hold onto their lead, the Chiefs' chances of achieving that were given a big boost by Marshall, superbly set up by Nanai-Williams. George Moala's try, coming with Nanai-Williams in the sin bin, gave the Blues a bit of hope but that was in vain as the Chiefs earned a statement win ahead of their bye.

Chiefs 32 (Tameifuna 2, Nanai-Williams, Marshall tries; Anscombe 3 cons, 2 pens)
Blues 20 (Visinia, Moala tries; Hickey 2 cons, 2 pens)

- APNZ

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