Chiefs championship defence remains alive
James Mortimer 11 Jul 2014 Getty Images
Unlike their two previous seasons where they have finished in the top two, Dave Rennie and his charges will likely have to travel to Australia or South Africa, but eight wins, the same number of bonus points and two draws have confirmed the Chiefs third straight final’s berth.
The Blues, who dominated possession and attacking number dramatically throughout the first half, were unable to crack a defence where the visitors looked similar to the title winning outfits over the last two seasons with their eager play and voracious tackling.
With a generous and eager crowd ticking over 18,000 camped under the rafters of Eden Park, they were treated to Keven Mealamu running out in his 162nd Super Rugby game, and the emotion surrounding his running out (with his family forming a guard of honour) might have galvanised the hosts.
It was a strong start by the Blues, camped in Chiefs territory for first five minutes, with their big ball carriers offering plenty of running options.
The pressure valve didn’t let off, with the hosts continuing to pressure the Chiefs line, especially with a scrum that didn’t appear to overly miss Tony Woodcock.
Over and over the Blues appeared to cross the Chiefs line, and twice early the Blues looked like they had scored but nothing.
The desperation of the champions had led to the officials giving a general warning to Aaron Cruden about offside defence, which led to Mealamu calling the scrum, putting the tourists under the pump as the maiden half progressed.
While the most capped Blues player of all time was subbed early in the match, the momentum of the hosts was clearly favourable, with 12 minutes of the opening half hour seeing Kirwan’s men camped in the Chiefs 22.
But still the defence of the titlists held firm, and against the run of play it was Cruden who knocked over a crucial three points to register the first points of the game.
The champions, clearly enthused by their ability to hold the Blues out, were beginning to warm to their task here, looking quite impressive as they surged forward.
It was however still something of a stalemate in testing weather conditions, with neither team looking to have an edge in a grind down period of play.
A yellow to Ma’a Nonu only caused more disruption for the Blues, which led to the Chiefs taking a 3-0 halftime lead.
The second stanza started with the three-time champions continuing to put heat of the Waikato based team’s defensive line, but it was Liam Messam who shook up the game with an intercept which saw the balance of power shift.
While the Chiefs would lose Mike Fitzgerald in the 65th minute, and the Blues would score a try via George Moala five minutes later, the champions would continue to defy the offensive onslaught of the hosts and hold on for victory.
Tries: Moala (68)
Pens: West (43)
Tries: Messam (47)
Pens: Cruden (23, 61)
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