Blues ‘riding high’ and should have edge in final

Katelyn Vaha'akolo has been a standout for the Blues. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Katelyn Vaha'akolo has been a standout for the Blues. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
The Blues will meet Chiefs Manawa in the Super Rugby Aupiki final at Eden Park tomorrow. Kayla Hodge looks into how they shape up against each other.

The oil

Blues: What a difference a season can make. The Blues went winless in 2023 and have risen to the occasion to finish as top qualifiers this year, only recording one loss against the Chiefs in round two. But they bounced back to thump Manawa 40-26 in their encounter late last month. Statistics do not lie and they all point to the Blues being the frontrunners this season. They lead the competition for tries (31), carries (846), metres gained (3998), defenders beaten (171), offloads (97) and lineouts won (85.4%). They have taken all their chances and just have one job left.

Chiefs Manawa: Manawa has been a feared name since Super Rugby Aupiki started. But they are coming into the final on the back of two consecutive losses — they have only lost three games in their history — and looked gutted after losing home turf advantage. They have a potent forward pack, and when Luka Connor tucks herself away at the back of the maul, there is no stopping Manawa from scoring. Their backline is packed with talent as well and can create something out of nothing whenever they need. After coming agonisingly close to winning last year, Manawa are not going to give up quietly.


Key players

Blues: Blues wingers Katelyn Vaha'akolo is unstoppable when the ball is in her hands. She is the competition’s leading try-scorer (six) — joint with Connor — leads for metres gained (605), and is second for defenders beaten (32) and clean breaks (11). Her quick sidestep and physicality are second to none.

Chiefs Manawa: Flanker Kennedy Simon can do no wrong. She is the first to every ruck, over the ball, and does all the little things right. She sets things up for those around her and is a level head in those big moments. Expect a huge shift out of the Black Ferns captain.


Hodge’s prediction: The Blues are riding high and have the home advantage for this one. They outclassed Manawa in their last encounter, and while Manawa will be desperate to regain the title after last year’s loss, it feels like the Blues just have the edge. Expect them to win by 12 and under.