AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – MARCH 05: Quinn Tupaea of the Chiefs is tackled by Mark Telea of the Blues during the round 3 Super Rugby Pacific match between the Blues and the Chiefs at Eden Park on March 05, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images)
The Blues edged the Chiefs 24-22 in a bruising New Zealand Super Rugby Pacific derby at Eden Park, Auckland.
Bryn Gatland missed a long-range penalty, three minutes after the hooter, to hand the Blues a hard-fought Super Rugby win in the City of Sails.
With less than three minutes remaining, the Blues levelled through Mark Telea, and Stephen Perofeta, who set up the winger, slotted a touchline conversion to give the Blues a to-point lead.
Gatland will rue his efforts from the tee, missing two penalties in the last quarter of an hour, which ultimately proved the difference.
Leon MacDonald’s men are imperious at Eden Park but had to fight back from 3-12 down at halftime, and 17-22 at the death.
Clayton McMillan’s charges struggle in the first half, but fought back; however, they fell away late in the game as the opposition squeezed them.
Brad Weber, playing his 100th Super Rugby match, was excellent. The veteran halfback bagged a brace and was dangerous throughout.
Etene Nanai-Seturo also dotted down for the Hamilton men, while Josh Ioane (7) and Gatland (3) added the rest of the points from the tee.
Caleb Clarke, Hoskins Sotutu, and Telea all crossed for the home team as the teams shared three tries apiece.
Harry Plummer added seven points from a penalty and two conversions, while Perofeta slotted the winning points with a late sideline conversion.
Perofeta was superb, joining the line to flummox the opposition, and he set up both Clarke and Telea’s five-pointers.
The two teams shared three first-half tries as the Chiefs took a slim two-point lead into the shed
The Blues, despite being down, had the better of the territory (75%) and possession (70%) after 30 minutes.
The half, however, ended almost even in both categories as the Chiefs, looked more dangerous with the ball in hand, fought back.
Weber and Nanai-Seturo dotted down for the Chiefs to put the visitors 12-3 ahead after 20 minutes.
Brodie Retallick ripped the ball from Alex Hodgman, Weber collected and booted the ball from his 22 deep into Blues territory.
The scrumhalf chased his kick, which bamboozled Sotutu, and bounced into his arms. The halfback raced past Sotutu and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to score on seven minutes.
Ioane could not convert. Plummer, who had opened the scoring for the Blues, missed a penalty before Clarke’s 24th-minute converted try brought MacDonald’s side back in the contest.
Nanai-Seturo sold Telea an audacious dummy before stepping inside the winger, he slipped Tom Robinson’s cover tackle and scored next to the posts. Ioane could not miss.
Ioane did, however, miss a penalty before the half-hour. The teams went into the break 10-12.
A stodgy second half descended into an arm-wrestle but did not lack for drama at the end as the Blues edged the Chiefs
The second stanza began with the return of Beauden Barrett, who had not played Super Rugby since August 2020 when he played against the Highlanders.
Sotutu’s opportunistic converted score gave the Blues the lead soon after the interval.
The number eight charged down Chase Tiatia’s clearance. He kicked ahead, the ball bounced unkindly for Ioane, and Sotutu just had to put downward pressure on the ball.
Plummer added the extras as the hosts led 17-12 seven minutes after the restart.
Clarke received a yellow card moments later for two infringements at once, and the visitors took advantage.
The winger, who was offside, also deliberately knock-down a pass inside his 22. This gave the Chiefs an attacking scrum on the right side of the posts.
Pita Gus Sowakula broke off the back of the scrum, sucked in Robinson, allowing Weber the space to score his 20th Super Rugby try.
Ioane converted to put his side back in front by two. Gatland came off the bench, missing a penalty, although he landed his second attempt on 68 minutes to make it 22-17.
Late drama as Blues snatch victory no thanks to a bit of fortune
With the clock winding down, the Blues camped on the Chiefs’ 5m; they had a lineout, two scrums, and a free-kick, before finally breaching.
Perofeta again was instrumental in setting up the score when he sucked in several defenders before sending Telea away in the corner.
The fullback stepped up to convert from the touchline to put the hosts ahead.
MacDonald’s men, looking to run down the clock, conceded two penalties to allow Gatland a shot at stealing the points.
It was not to be, the kick sailed past the lefthand upright to hand the Blues a fourth Super Rugby win against the Chiefs in the last five games.
Final Score: Blues 24 (10) Chiefs 22 (12)
Tries – Clarke, Sotutu, Telea
Pen – Plummer
Con – Plummer (2), Perofeta
Cards – Clarke (Yellow, 50′)
Tries – Weber (2), Nanai-Seturo
Pen – J. Ioane
Con – J. Ioane (2), Gatland
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 1: Angus Mabey
Assistant Ref 2: Mike Winter
TMO: Richard Kelly
15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papali’i (captain), 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Sam Darry, 20 Adrian Choat, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 AJ Lam
15 Chase Tiatia, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Alex Nankivell, 12 Quinn Tupaea, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Brad Weber (co-captain), 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Tupou Vaa’i, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Josh Lord, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross
Replacements: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 20 Kaylum Boshier, 21 Xavier Roe, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown