Blues claim 2024 Super Rugby Pacific title after Chiefs domination

Sat, Jun 22, 2024, 8:28 AM
AW
by AAP and Nathan Williamson

The Blues have broken a 21-year Super Rugby title drought, sweeping aside the Chiefs in a 41-10 drubbing at a sold-out Eden Park.

In the first ever final between the two New Zealand sides in their 28-year history, the Blues were dominant.

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The driving Auckland rain precluded any chance of expansive rugby breaking out on Saturday night, which suited the hosts just fine.

Winger Caleb Clarke scored a hat-trick, but it was the Blues' forward pack that laid the foundation for the win in slippery conditions, controlling territory and possession and heaping pressure on the visitors.

Blues skipper Patrick Tuipulotu showed no signs of the knee injury that was supposed to have ended his season, amassing a mountain of metres and a line-break in a powerhouse performance.

His brave display four weeks ahead of his scheduled return from injury earned him a standing ovation from the home fans as he was subbed off as he claimed player of the match honours.

“It’s a surreal feeling with the boys on the bench for the final two minutes, I can’t describe the feeling, there’s a lot of joy,” Tuipulotu said 

“It’s been a long time and really proud of the effort our team has put in to get this win.

“It’s important to this team, a lot of them are young and we wanted to add to the legacy of Blues Rugby. I think we can proud that we’ve done that.”

The Chiefs defended valiantly but were out-muscled and outclassed on a joyless night. 

Caleb Clarke Try v Chiefs | SRP 2024

It was always going to be a challenge beating the Blues on their home turf - the Aucklanders have not been defeated at Eden Park since March 2023.

Simon Parker scored the Chiefs' first try of the night with 15 minutes left to go, but by then the damage was done.

The Blues opened the scoring in their first real attacking foray of the game, Akira Ioane burrowing over from a point-blank ruck.

The Japan-bound flanker and brother Rieko teamed up to set up the first and best of Clarke's trio of tries, somehow contriving to keep the ball in play and juggling the ball to the All Blacks winger to score in the corner.

The Chiefs' night was made worse 10 minutes into the second half. As the pressure and the penalties piled on, referee Nic Berry lost his patience and sent George Dyer to the sin bin for a ruck infringement.

After Parker's consolation try, AJ Lam scored the Blues' fifth try to seal the deal. 

As the Blues celebrated their first title win since 2003 and the equal most one-sided grand final win by a New Zealand team, a hint of a smile forced its way through coach Vern Cotter's stony face. 

"A very tough one out here tonight. Firstly credit to the Blues - you played an awesome season. You came out and set it right from the get go tonight and made it tough for us to stay in the game," Chiefs captain Luke Jacobson said.

"To our fans – thank you very much. Felt the support big time today. We’ve got the best fans in the country I think. You guys really came out in numbers tonight. Sorry we couldn’t get it done.

"We’ve got a lot of love in our team – management, coaches, club staff and obviously all the players. Big love. Really unfortunate we couldn’t get it done tonight. Like you said, we’ve got a really tight culture and we’ll be back again."

BLUES 41

Tries: A. Ioane, Clarke 3, Lam

Cons: Plummer 5/5

Pens: Plummer 2/2

CHIEFS 10

Tries: Parker

Cons: McKenzie 1/1

Pens: McKenzie 1/2

BLUES v CHIEFS TEAMS

BLUES (1-15): Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Ricky Riccitelli, Marcel Renata, Patrick Tuipulotu (c), Sam Darry, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papali'i, Hoskins Sotutu, Finlay Christie, Harry Plummer, Caleb Clarke, AJ Lam, Rieko Ioane, Mark Tele'a, Stephen Perofeta

RESERVES: Kurt Eklund, Joshua Fusitu'a, Angus Ta'avao, Josh Beehre, Adrian Choat, Taufa Funaki, Bryce Heem, Cole Forbes

CHIEFS (1-15): Aidan Ross, Tyrone Thompson, George Dyer, Jimmy Tupou, Tupou Vaa'i, Samipeni Finau, Luke Jacobson (c), Wallace Sititi, Cortez Ratima, Damian McKenzie, Etene Nanai Seturo, Rameka Poihipi, Anton Lienert-Brown, Emoni Narawa, Shaun Stevenson

RESERVES: Millennium Sanerivi, Jared Proffit, Reuben O'Neill, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Simon Parker, Xavier Roe, Quinn Tupaea, Daniel Rona

Referee: Nic Berry

Assistant Referees: Jordan Way, Damon Murphy

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