Blues v Chiefs: A game of two halves

Stargazer

Stargazer

January 31st, 2020

When the first game of the season is played on the last day of January, you can't blame anyone for expecting a slow start, with average rugby, lots of errors and little entertainment. So what a surprisingly entertaining game this was!


Blues v Chiefs: a game of two halves

When the first game of the season is played on the last day of January, you can’t blame anyone for expecting a slow start, with average rugby, lots of errors and little entertainment. So what a surprisingly entertaining game this was!

Because the turning point in the game can so easily be placed at half time, I’ve written down some thoughts about each half separately.

First half
The first half was clearly the Blues’ half. They had a very dominant scrum and made some good steals from the Chiefs’ line-out. The Chiefs struggled at setpiece.

The Chiefs’ defence was good in the first half hour, however, and it took the Blues a while to cross the try-line. The Chiefs’ attack didn’t get them anywhere - partially because of a poor kicking game, partially because of bad ball handling - so the Blues’ defence was hardly tested, at first.

Standing out in that first half was Hoskins Sotutu, with also Tony Lamborn having a good game (proving some doubters wrong).

Samisoni Taukei’aho, while a bit anonymous in the first 30 minutes, improved during the half and started to make an impression, culminating in the Chiefs' first try from a line-out drive.

Both halfbacks struggled, and it made me wonder how Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi ever made the All Blacks. He hardly showed to be able to play at Super Rugby level. The starting tens didn't fare much better, both making sloppy passes and kicking badly. Kaleb Trask making his debut, deserves a bit of patience though; he's just a puppy and has plenty of potential for improvement. Not so sure about Stephen Perofeta though.

Best backs on the field during that first half, for me, were Rieko Ioane and Mark Telea. None of the Chiefs' backs really stood out; if I had to pick one, it would probably be Solomon Alaimalo.

Second half
What an impact all those replacements in the Chiefs' squad made! ALB and Cruden coming on straight after the break, immediately influenced the game. The Chiefs' attack - virtually non-existent in the first 30 minutes and sporadic in the last 10 minutes of the first half - suddenly had some spark and passes started to stick.

The Blues' pack also lost most of its dominance and the Chiefs' line-out got much better. Taukei’aho was turning into one of the Chiefs' biggest threats. Weber coming on sped up the Chiefs' game even more and the Chiefs started to break the Blues' defence.

Sotuto was probably still the Blues' best in that second half and definitely deserved that Blues' 8 starting spot, but also Ofa Tu'ungafasi and Karl Tu’inukuafe had some good impact, with the latter scoring a good try.

But the best forward in that second half, was definitely Taukei’aho, closely followed by Lachlan Boshier. Best back for me was Solomon Alaimalo, although also Aaron Cruden with his clever drop goal and game management and ALB deserve a mention.

Overall, I think the Chiefs deserved their win, although I think the Blues were unlucky not to get a losing bonus point out of the game.

My MVP was Samisoni Taukei’aho.
Best forward: Samisoni Taukei’aho, with Hoskins Sotutu a good second
Best back: Solomon Alaimalo
Didn't live up to the hype (yet): Joe Marchant
Injury worries: Nepo Laulala, Angus Ta’avao, Ray Niuia
Annoying: Pita Gus Sowakula diving on players on the ground at least twice (not spotted)

I thought the officiating was good. Maybe the officials should have checked Aiden Ross' try for double movement?

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