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Dublin: 15 °C Friday 14 August, 2020

14-man Auckland Blues edge five-try clash with hapless Chiefs to revive title hopes

The win sees the Blues move up to second on the table.

Waikato Chiefs captain Sam Cane.
Waikato Chiefs captain Sam Cane.
Image: AAP/PA Images

A CRUCIAL TRY by Finlay Christie kept the Auckland Blues’ title hopes alive as they bounced back from two consecutive losses to beat the hapless Waikato Chiefs 21-17 in Auckland.

In a dramatic finish, the Blues ended up a man down with Harry Plummer yellow-carded as the Chiefs pounded the line looking to steal the match at the end.

But, the 14-man Blues managed to steal possession and run the clock down.

The three tries to two win lifted the Blues up to second in the table, two points behind the Canterbury Crusaders and a point ahead of the Wellington Hurricanes who on Saturday inflicted the first defeat of the season on the Crusaders.

The Otago Highlanders, who produced 26 unanswered points to beat the Chiefs last week, lie fourth with the coach Warren Gatland’s Chiefs winless and last.

The Blues raced an early 14-0 lead with two converted tries in the opening 13 minutes, but had slipped behind 14-17 early in the second half before nuggety scrum-half Christie saw a gap around a ruck and dived over for what proved to be the clincher with 25 minutes remaining.

“We didn’t want it to get that close. We had plenty of opportunity in their half to capitalise on and we made a few errors and gave away to many penalties,” Blues captain Paddy Tuipulotu said adding he was grateful for the defensive effort.

“In the last five minutes we trusted ourselves to back our D obviously and got the job done.”

Chiefs captain Sam Cane rated his side’s performance as probably their best in the post COVID-19 lockdown competition, but it was still not good enough.

“We got off to a slow start but we fought our way back into it, and it’s a 100-metre field but this game was decided by inches. We’ve just got to hang in there. It’s tough,” he said.

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Matt Duffie, getting a rare start for the Blues with Beauden Barrett moving to fly-half, ran round Damian McKenzie for the first Blues try and Tuipulotu crashed over for the second.

Barrett converted both while Damian McKenzie converted the Chiefs’ sole first half try to Lachlan Boshier.

The Chiefs, desperate for a first win, produced a try to Solomon Alaimalo with a conversion and penalty to McKenzie putting them ahead 17-14.

But, they could not sustain the pressure and Christie was able to sneak through for the winning try.

© – AFP, 2020 

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