Draw makes life hard for Blues

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Lynn McConnell     26 May 2017     Getty Images

It left the Blues probably just short of achieving their hope of making the play-offs this year while the Chiefs slipped further down the pecking order at the top of the table to 45 points, but still live with the Hurricanes having tough games ahead of them. It was also the first time in 12 games the Blues had not lost to the Chiefs.

Conditions had their effect on both sides, especially in the second half where the Blues ended with 64 percent of the possession but undone by crucial handling errors. They did at least force the Chiefs to make 118 tackles while having to make only 64 themselves.

But those handling problems in the Chiefs' 22m almost undid the Blues, none worse in the 66th minute than when a strong surge topped by halfback Augustine Pulu saw the ball knocked on when trying to move the ball in the wet conditions.

It was turned over with wing James Lowe making the impetus in midfield which allowed fullback Damian McKenzie, standing at first receiver to slip a crossfield kick to space where second five-eighths Jonathan Faauli was able to run onto the ball and score the equaliser but Cruden was unable to convert.

In the 72nd minute Blues first five-eighths Piers Francis had a chance to kick the Blues ahead but his penalty swung to the right of the posts.

Blues problems at restarts in the first half threatened to undo the good work that had been done in getting out in front. On the first occasion, after wing Rieko Ioane's 29th minute try, the forwards stood around looking at the descent of the ball, only to see Lowe take the ball and set up several phases on the goal-line which only ended when the Chiefs conceded a penalty.

But after Francis landed a 45m penalty goal two minutes out from half-time, they paid the price when the Chiefs kicked off to the blindside where lock Brodie Retallick was able to latch onto the ball and from the resulting ruck McKenzie was fed into space, he took a gap and applied the after-burners to run in on the diagonal to score a superb try.

Light rain started around the start of the game and resulted in a string of handling errors, especially from the Chiefs with McKenzie and Lowe each dropping chances.

Lowe was also fed into space on a blindside move but appeared to be struggling with his balance. He put a desperate kick along the sideline but it went dead – an early chance missed.

The Chiefs also lost Tim Nanai-Williams to an ankle injury 16 minutes into the game.

The Blues had demonstrated their intent with some fine work by props Charlie Faumuina and Ofa Tu-ungafasi, flanker Steven Luatua, who put in some fine tackles, and ever-present lock Scott Scrafton.

Early niggle, almost in keeping with the traditions of the rivalry between the sides, threatened to boil over but the sides settled and the rugby became much more competitive.

Retallick was a powerful presence while props Nepo Laulala and Kane Hames were similarly impressive in the tight exchanges.

Scorers: Blues 16 (Rieko Ioane try; Piers Francis con, 3 pen) Chiefs 16 (Damian McKenzie, Jonathan Faauli tries; Aaron Cruden con, pen; McKenzie pen). HT: 13-8