The Blues play-off aspirations suffered another knock as the Chiefs condemned them to a third successive defeat in Auckland on Saturday. The home side had plenty of chances to win the game but fly-half Luke McAlister missed five kicks at goal.
McAlister gave the hosts an early 6-0 lead with tow well struck penalties inside the first 10 minutes, one of those goals was an impressive effort from deep inside his own half, while his opposite number Stephen Donald missed two sitters from straight in front of the sticks. There were a lot of turnovers early on and neither side was able to establish a real foothold in the game, the battle at breakdown was nothing short of ferocious and counter rucking was the name of the game early on.
The Chiefs were playing a very loose style and obviously had a game plan to go out and attack from anywhere on the pitch and really take the game to the Blues.
McAlister had a chance to give the Blues a nine point advantage but his attempt from 60 metres out dropped just short of the posts. The men from Auckland were made to pay for this missed chance as the Chiefs opened their scoring for the night with a well worked try from experienced centre Tana Umaga.
The former All-Black captain worked some magic down the line and sent Mils Muliaina down the line, after a couple of strong carries by the Chiefs forwards the ball was moved to Sitiveni Sivivatu who floated a well weighted pass to Umaga who scored in the corner. Donald added the tricky conversion to give the Chiefs a 7-6 lead.
Umaga was rolling back the years and was the focal point for everything that the Chiefs did in attack, his presence in the midfield allowed the speedsters like Sivivatu to run into space. The Chiefs pack was starting to get the upper hand and Fritz Lee and Liam Messam were carrying the ball well and making some crunching hits.
McAlister missed another two penalty attempts before the interval, and at the break the score remained 7-6 in favour of the Chiefs.
Donald extended the lead soon after the break with another confident strike, but the Blues hit back with a try from centre Jared Payne. A quick tap penalty deep inside the Chiefs 22 saw the Blues move the ball wide and Payne scored in the corner, McAlister was once again off target but the host had regained the lead 11-10.
The Blues were not helping themselves by conceding sloppy penalties at crucial times, Donald restored the Chiefs lead after 51 minutes with well struck penalty. The Blues attacking looked very blunt and the distribution of McAlister was below par and this meant the ball carriers could never penetrate the defensive line.
The former Sale Shark missed his fifth consecutive kick after 62 minutes, and was hauled off by coach Pat Lam soon after. It wasn't the sort of performance we expect from the extremely talented stand-off and he will need to improve dramatically if he wants a spot at the World Cup.
In the last 10 minutes the Chiefs defence was holding out very well and the still had the ambition to run the ball back at the Blues defence. Donald sealed the win in the 78th minute with his third penalty to make the final score 11-16.
The Blues got exactly what they deserved from this game, they were blunt in attack and looked devoid of any creative spark. After leading the league just four weeks ago the Auckland side now look like they may lose their grip on top spot in the New Zealand conference when they face the Crusaders next week. The Chiefs will be delighted with the result, they played with ambition and got their reward. They will be wondering what might have been this season, considering the amount of injuries the suffered early on.
Man of the Match