That was a game I thoroughly enjoyed, the intensity of a Chiefs v Blues game was very much on display and both sides played well.

I felt a bit sorry for the Blues - they didn't play badly and, if they'd been last year's side, I'd say they would have lost that match by 20-30 points. So they have improved and, on the basis of last night's effort, they'll win a lot more yet. There'll be some angst about losing three in a row now but they shouldn't be too worrried. These Chiefs know what they are doing and are out to preserve their crown.

Ali Williams, Piri Weepu, Steve Luatua and Luke Braid all got through a ton of work and really gave their all - and you can never argue with that.

As for the Chiefs, I thought they won it up front. They out-muscled the Aucklanders in and around the tackle area and in the scrums and that defence ... ! It was outstanding and the fact that the Blues weren't making as many mistakes as they'd made against the Waratahs last week meant it had to be.


You got an idea of how good it was when Big Ben Tameifuna came on at prop. I'd love to know what his tackle count was because he got through plenty. So too Brodie Retallick who, at one stage, made about six tackles in a row. Outstanding stuff - and when tight forwards are giving it that much, it means your loosies can get through a lot of extra work.

That explains Liam Messam's fine game and Tanerau Latimer, without being player of the day or anything, got through a heap of good work too.

But if you wanted a player of the day, how about Richard Kahui? First proper game back and he's that good ... I'd say All Black coach Steve Hansen will be a bit pissed off that Kahui's heading off overseas. Conrad Smith played for the Hurricanes earlier yesterday and played well enough - but Kahui just had that X-factor in a game of much higher intensity than the Hurricanes-Kings match.

There's not too much more the Blues can do to get a win - maybe lift that intensity, as they did against the Crusaders, and cut the error rate even more. But it's hard when you are faced with tackles of that number and physicality.

I thought the scrum went better when hooker Quentin MacDonald came on and maybe he'll earn a starting spot next time. I also spent much of the game marvelling at Blues prop Tom McCartney. He gives so much away in terms of size and poundage and he should get slaughtered - but he hangs in there.

You also had to watch with some pride the quality of the No7s out there - Latimer, Sam Cane and Braid were all quality players and you could almost add Messam to that list too, he played so well.

It was all in very much contrast to the Highlanders against the Reds on Friday night. They were awful and there just doesn't look to be any way back for them now. They were particularly awful in the backs. Ma'a Nonu couldn't lift them, Brad Thorn had too much to do on his own and, to me, they just look like a team that can't find their way home.