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Resurgent Blues give Chiefs a contest

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Sportal.co.nz     02 Jun 2012     Getty Images

It was akin to a passing out parade for the Blues who have enjoyed only one win in the competition as they unleashed some of their most positive play of the season, albeit heightened by a high-risk factor and a desire to run the ball from all over the field.

The Chiefs, to their credit, looked to have taken the Blues too lightly initially but under pressure they upped their game with some dynamic play to take control

Fraught with danger the Blues approach might have been but there was no lack of excitement which was lapped up by the crowd of 20,200.

Highlighting the Chiefs performance was wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma who touched down four times for the side.

For the home side it was wing Rene Ranger who provided a timely reminder of the explosive qualities he possesses when a 60-metre solo run from the base of a ruck saw him break three tackles to set up a thrilling finish with 15 minutes remaining and the scores locked at 34-34.

Two turnovers, one unforced when a kick into the Chiefs 22m area was returned 80m back downfield by first five-eighths Aaron Cruden, and then as the Blues attempted to play the ball back downfield flanker Steven Luatua dropped the ball continued the drama. The ball was moved quickly across the backline. Fullback Robbie Robinson, beaten hands down moments earlier by Ranger, then kicked through and Tikoirotuma outran fullback Rudi Wulf to score his fourth try of the night.

Early runs from Ranger and Wulf, both back from injuries hinted at the fire that has been lacking in the side this year.

The Blues' hard-running ploy was rewarded with the first try of the game to livewire newcomer at centre Francis Saili who brushed off the defence to touch down in the 12th minute.

However, the Chiefs demonstrated the control that has made them such a force this year to set up quality ball, and space, which Cruden used perfectly to slip a grubber kick through, in the style of his mentor Dan Carter, and wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma was untroubled to win the race to score. Cruden converted, at his second attempt after lock Liaki Moli charged too soon for the Chiefs to regain the lead.

The Blues policy of running everything came unstuck in the 30th minute when the ball was not controlled it was turned over. No.8 Kane Thompson made a powerful charge at the line and in the phases which followed it was second five-eighths Sonny Bill Williams who cork-screwed his way over for the try.

Both sides lost players to the sin-bin for driving opponents into the ground in tackles, flanker Steve Luatua for the Blues and Maritino Nemani for the the Chiefs.

Munro landed a penalty goal for the Blues, but then on the cusp of halftime the Blues moved the ball in their own half. Second five-eighths Ma'a Nonu slightly bobbled the ball and the resulting hesitation in the defence allowed him to find Ranger on the wing. He cut back on a devastating angle and raced into space to feed back out to Munro who was able to dive in at the corner. Munro than added the conversion from the sideline.

Four minutes into the second half Cruden and Williams combined with a scissors movement with Williams flinging a backhand pass to flanker Liam Messam who fed Tikoirotuma over for his second try.

But the try of the night came from another Blues turnover, this time when Ranger was isolated on the left flank and the ball was moved across the Chiefs goalmouth. Centre Jackson Willison made ground then passed to Williams who back-handed another pass to Cruden. He linked with flanker Sam Cane and when he was contronted it was a case of passing to the left-win express Tikoirotuma who scored his third, and the bonus point try for the Chiefs.

However, the Blues were not finished and while Chiefs lock Michael Fitzgerald was sin-binned for retaliating when held by the jersey and in the resulting play some solid Blues forward drives unleashed the ball and Saili was able to throw a back pass to Wulf who slipped through on his inside to score.

Scorers:
Blues 34 (Francis Saili, Lachie Munro, Rudi Wulf, Rene Ranger tries; Munro 4 con, 2 pen) Chiefs 41 (Asaeli Tikoirotuma 4 Sonny Bill Williams tries; Aaron Cruden 5 con, 2 pen ). HT: 20-20