A resilient performance by the defending champions has seen the Chiefs overcome the Blues in a gutsy 11-8 win at Eden Park in Auckland.
Having secured a playoff berth, the Chiefs refused to give in knowing their season and their title defence was on the line showcasing their resolute defence to deny the Blues numerous times in the opening 20 minutes.
Early pressure by the home team saw the Blues go within inches of scoring when number 8 stretched out over the line only for a desperate tackle by Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow to deny the All Black.
Showing their championship mettle the Chiefs were forced to defend their line and did so superbly holding the Blues out once again and even launching their own offence.
Eventually the first points came when first five-eighth Aaron Cruden kicked a penalty to give his side a slim lead in relatively tough conditions.
The Chiefs were unlucky not to extend their lead after Kerr-Barlow broke free and linked up with James Marshall who attempted to pass but the slippery surface saw him drop the ball with the line in sight.
The hosts were then rocked further when All Black second five Ma’a Nonu was sent to the sin bin after a shoulder charge on the Chiefs midfielder Tim Nanai-Williams.
Turning down the penalty shot, the Chiefs couldn’t not punish the Blues as they showed their defence was up to the task as they held on to go into half time trailing 3-0.
Despite playing with 14 men, it was the Blues who managed to draw level again through the boot of young playmaker Ihaia West.
But West would prove to be influential in the next scoring play as Chiefs co-captain Liam Messam telegraphed the Blues first-five’s pass before intercepting and racing away for the first try of the match.
With both teams continuing to battle for the ascendancy Cruden was able to add to their lead with his second penalty.
However, the Blues would have their own opportunity to play with an extra man advantage after lock Mike Fitzgerald was binned by referee Glen Jackson for repeated infringements by the visiting side.
It wasn’t long before the Blues struck with the try to replacement wing George Moala who dived in the corner to give his team some hope of picking up the win and upsetting the Chiefs playoff chances.
But in the end the Chiefs withstood any Blues advances as handling errors plagued the home side and the two time winners booked their spot in the playoffs.
With matches yet to be played the Chiefs will no doubt await their opponents next week and begin plotting for their title defence.
More details on Chiefs.co.nz