Chiefs move top
Tighthead prop Ben Tameifuna bagged two tries as the Chiefs brushed off the 14-man Blues 26-16 at Eden Park on Saturday.
Kane Barrett's straight red card in the first half left the Blues competing with only 14 men for three quarters of the match, but their intensity and commitment remained excellent throughout.
Four tries from the Chiefs were indebted in many ways to their numerical advantage. The Blues though never gave up, eager to send off the departing Ali Williams, Rene Ranger and Anthony Boric with a win.
A miracle though was out of reach for Sir John Kirwan's side as the Chiefs secured top spot in the New Zealand Conference and for the moment moved top of the Super Rugby table with a five-point victory - Tameifuna impressing especially with his close-range second half brace.
First points came from a Baden Kerr penalty, Aaron Cruden responding shortly after when Francis Saili was penalised for hands in the ruck.
Bundee Aki's narrow finish in the right corner then put the champions out in front, getting behind the Blues defensive line for the game's first try.
All sense of a contest one suspected would then be sucked out of the match following Barrett's straight red card after 23 minutes, for use of the boot on an opposition player's head at the ruck.
Being a man down couldn't stop the travel-weary Blues from adding a try of their own though. Kerr's clever grubber behind the defence was pounced upon by Charles Piutau to level the scoreline, Kerr's resulting conversion putting the hosts in front.
Robbie Robinson was pulled back from a potential score due to a forward pass but the Chiefs could not be held out for long, capitalising on their numerical advantage in the pack to dot down from the back of a rolling maul with Hika Elliott. Kerr chipped back with a penalty to leave the scores level at 13-13 come the interval.
It was even worse for the Blues after the break - with Kerr sent to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on following Liam Messam's interception break down the right touchline.
Competing with 14 men was bearable but 13 proved too difficult for the Blues - the man-mountain Ben Tameifuna burrowing his way over with a clever finish to put the Chiefs back in front.
Big Ben then struck for a second time - the tighthead prop picking up the mantle from Sona Taumalolo's try-scoring exploits from last season to put the Chiefs up by seven at 23-16.
Messam was unfortunate not to add a fifth try after a poor pass from Asaeli Tikoirotuma left him short of time to finish in the corner, good work from the Blues prop Angus Ta'avao keeping the All Black out.
Resilient, gritty defence from the Blues throughout prevented any further tries, paying a fine tribute to Williams, with the hosts still within seven points looking for an equalising try.
Instead it was Gareth Anscombe, coming off the bench following a long injury layoff, who kicked a last-minute penalty for the Chiefs against his old side to secure a 26-16 victory.
<b>For Blues:</b><br><b>Try:</b> Piutau<br><b>Con:</b> Kerr<br><b>Pens:</b> Kerr 3<br><b>Yellow Card:</b> Kerr<br><b>Red Card:</b> Barrett
<b>For Chiefs:</b><br><b>Tries:</b> Aki, Elliott, Tameifuna 2<br><b>Pens:</b> Cruden, Anscombe
<b>Blues:</b> 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Lolagi Visinia, 10 Baden Kerr, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili / Brendon O'Connor, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Kane Barrett, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Sam Prattley.<br><b>Replacements:</b> 16 James Parsons, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Liaki Moli, 19 Brendon O'Connor / Sean Polwart, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Marty McKenzie.
<b>Chiefs: </b> 15 Andrew Horrell, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Robbie Robinson, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Matt Vant Leven, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.<br><b>Replacements:</b> 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Gareth Anscombe, 22 Asaeli Tikoirotuma.
<b>Referee:</b> Chris Pollock (New Zealand)<br><b>Assistant referees:</b> Jonathon White (New Zealand), Garrett Williamson (New Zealand<br><b>Television match official:</b> Glenn Newman (New Zealand)