Blues 18 v 23 Chiefs
Damian McKenzie scored 13 points on debut to guide the Chiefs to a 23-18 victory over the Blues in Albany on Saturday.
Much was expected of Sonny Bill Williams on his return to Super Rugby, and the versatile Chiefs centre certainly did not disappoint. Williams was prominent in the buildup to the Chiefs’ two tries, using his otherworldly handling skills to set up James Lowe and then Bryce Heem.
That said, it was the man on Williams’s inside that stole the show. The 19-year-old McKenzie controlled the game well from the flyhalf position, and converted five of his seven attempts on goal.
The Blues remained in the contest thanks to the goal-kicking of their own flyhalf, Ihaia West. Three penalties ensured that the Blues trailed by just 20-9 at half-time.
The hosts had another opportunity to hit back at the start of the second half. Chiefs captain Matty Symons was yellow carded for a cynical breakdown infringement, and it was during his absence were the Blues should have piled on the points.
But a West penalty was soon cancelled out when McKenzie goaled another three-pointer for the Chiefs. When Symons returned from the sin bin, the Chiefs still held an 11-point lead.
While the Blues came back strongly at the death, the Chiefs managed to hold out for the win. The result marks their eighth consecutive win against the Blues, but what’s more significant is that they have started the 2015 season with a victory away from home, as well as a convincing performance.
Blues – 18
Penalties : Ihaia West (70, 58, 43 , 37, 28 , 4)
Chiefs – 23
Tries : Bryce Heem (14), James Lowe (11)
Penalties : Damian McKenzie (47 , 32, 20)
Cons : Damian McKenzie (15 , 12)
Blues: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Charles Piutau, 13 George Moala/Hamish Northcot, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Jerome Kaino (c), 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tony Woodcock
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Akira Ioane, 20 Luke Braid, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Hamish Northcott/Ben Lam
Chiefs: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 James Lowe, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Johan Bardoul, 5 Mike Fitzgerald, 4 Matt Symons (c), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Tevita Koloamatangi, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Bryce Heem
Date: Saturday, February 14
Venue: QBE Stadium, Albany
Referee: Chris Pollock
Assistant Referees: Ben O’Keeffe, Kane McBride
TMO: Ben Skeen