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Chiefs down 14-man Blues

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Sportal.co.nz     13 Jul 2013     Getty Images

Flanker Kane Barrett was sent off in just the 22nd minute, then first-five Baden Kerr was shown a yellow card. Two crippling blows that saw the Blues reduced to 13 men in the second half.

Despite the adversity the home side managed to draw level at the break. But the Chiefs eventually pulled away with two tries to prop Ben Tameifuna.

With the win, the Chiefs moved three points clear atop the overall Super Rugby table. Whether they remain there will be determined when the second-placed Bulls play the Stormers on Sunday morning (NZT).

Having wrapped up the New Zealand conference they will spend the next fortnight resting before hosting a semi-final against the Crusaders or Reds, while there is a slim chance that the Cheetahs can cross their path.

Before that fixture, Dave Rennie has plenty to think about. After a poor showing against he Crusaders last week his defending champions were less than convincing despite possessing a huge advantage.

All Blacks first-five Aaron Cruden is certainly one who will want to make a statement during the playoffs after missing all four of his conversion attempts.

Meanwhile, Sir John Kirwan and his squad of youngsters can set their sights on 2014 after enduring a season filled with lessons for players and coaches alike.

The match marked the end of an era at Eden Park, with former All Black, and captain, Ali Williams departing the City of Sails for the lucrative French Club scene on a one-year deal with Toulon.

He is joined in the departure lounge by fellow lock Anthony Boric (Japan) and Rene Ranger, who could still feature for the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship before leaving for Montpellier.

With injuries to a number of players including All Black flanker Steven Luatua, 20-year-old Lolagi Visinia was awarded his debut in a backline that featured second string pivot Baden Kerr.

The young wing made a bold move when he darted out of the line to stop the Chiefs attack but only made it harder for the covering to defence to stop Bundee Aki from dotting down in the right corner.

Cruden missed his first kick of the night, a sideline conversion, after slotting a penalty earlier. The Chiefs led 8-3 after 13 minutes.

There was fear for the well being of Chiefs No 8 Matt Vant Leven who left the field with a suspected concussion. He passed a sideline test but was replaced by flanker Sam Cane.

However, the real concern was when Chiefs captain Craig Clarke appeared to have been stamped on the head by Blues flanker Barrett, who was subsequently sent off for the remaining 57 minutes.

The signalling of a red card was met with great disapproval by the 25-118 strong crowd but replays showed how lucky Clarke was not to have suffered serious damage.

With their backs against the wall, the Blues hit back with a try to fullback Charles Piutau but could not hold on to the ensuing two-point lead as Hika Elliot pushed the Chiefs ahead when he scored six minutes before the break.

With time winding down, Kerr slotted a penalty that ensured the sides headed into the break tied at 13-13. If anything, it was a moral victory for the Blues who refused to go quietly.

Looking to counter their disadvantage by playing a territory-focussed game, the Blues continued to defy the odds when Kerr regained the lead with his penalty three minutes into the second half.

However, those odds got even longer when the Counties Manukau pivot was sin-binned for intentionally batting the ball into touch as Liam Messam looked to finish of his lengthy break with a pass to the support.

The mounting pressure eventually took its toll as the 130kg Tameifuna twisted his way through a pile of bodies to score his first of the night.

It gave the Chiefs an 18-16 advantage that Cruden could have extended but as his conversion sailed wide of the posts, another chance to put finish off the spirited home side went begging.

That was until Tameifuna used his size to punish the Blues once again as he notched an impressive brace with less than 20 minutes to play.

Blues: 16 (Piutau try; Kerr con, 3 pens)

Chiefs: 26 (Tameifuna 2, Aki, Elliot tries; Cruden, Anscombe pen)

HT: 13-13

Crowd: 25,118