Drought continues for Blues

Damian McKenzie makes a run for the Chiefs against the Blues. Photo: Getty
Damian McKenzie makes a run for the Chiefs against the Blues. Photo: Getty
The Blues enigma continues. Another defeat to the Chiefs at Eden Park last night means it's seven years since they last beat them – a run of 13 matches.

They had their chances and led at halftime but the joy among their faithful once again turned to frustration and disappointment – the fact that the Chiefs were so badly hit by injury, including losing lock Brodie Retallick and fullback Shaun Stevenson on the day of the game, making it even worse.

This was their first match back at their home since their magnificent win over the British and Irish Lions but it might as well have been a lifetime away.

Tana Umaga will again rue his side's inaccuracy, and a period after halftime in which the Chiefs scored two converted tries and took the game away from them.

"Hats off to the Chiefs for all they've been through," Umaga said afterwards in reference to their personnel problems.

"For us, yeah we're disappointed, there's no doubt about it. It was an opportunity for us. They gave us enough opportunities to win it but we just didn't take them. It's something we need to look at.

"We couldn't consistently put phases together and put pressure on."

Umaga added: "We've got to find what it really means for us to play this game as the Blues. That's something we've been working hard on… we've just got to put it together. We've got the ability.

"Guys need to really start putting their hands up. As you saw there today a lot of Chiefs players put their hands up and they weren't even part of their squad at the start of the season."

The Blues are on a plane to South Africa in two days for tough matches against the Stormers and Lions so the sight of halfback and skipper Augustine Pulu hobbling on crutches afterwards will not have improved Umaga's mood.

The frustrating thing again for him and his team is that they had the opportunities to do far better but even the energy levels appeared lower than last weekend when they showed flashes of pure brilliance in losing narrowly to the Highlanders in Dunedin.

They really are a mystery, and their mistake here in the final seconds after winning a penalty and an attacking lineout for a last throw of the dice, was an appropriate way for them to stumble to the finish.

For the Chiefs, forced to move Damian McKenzie to fullback and Tiaan Falcon from the reserves bench to first-five, there was little change despite the disruption. They were down early to a Pulu try, but kept hanging in there as they generally do. The Dave Rennie era brought back the resolve to this franchise, and it hasn't gone anywhere despite his departure.

This was their first victory of the season after their defeat to the defending champions in Christchurch, with Sam Cane, Brad Weber, McKenzie and Sean Wainui the standouts. For the Blues, the search for a first win continues and it might not come for a while yet.

They had a few lucky escapes in the first half but were worthy of their halftime lead. They had struck first through Pulu, who backed up James Parsons' run close to the line, and No8 Akira Ioane scored a beauty from 20m out when he ran around three would-be defenders, including McKenzie.

But before and after Ioane's try came touchdowns for the visitors through Taleni Seu, who went through an attacking ruck far too easily, and Wainui, who showed great strength to get around Duffie in the left corner.

A combination of their own mistakes and referee Ben O'Keeffe's whistle kept the brakes on the Blues' attack, but Chiefs flanker Cane deserves credit here too for his tireless work at the breakdown.

Melani Nanai's brain explosion, when he made a break and passed to no one, only to see Weber race away, allowed the Chiefs to go further ahead following Mitchell Brown's converted try.

Bryn Gatland replied but it was too much ground to make up.

Chiefs 27 (Taleni Seu, Sean Wainui, Sam Cane, Brad Weber tries; Damian McKenzie 2 cons, pen), Blues 21 (Augustine Pulu, Akira Ioane, Bryn Gatland tries; Gatland 3 cons). HT: 10-14

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