Vodacom Super Rugby
Chiefs edge Blues in thriller
Chiefs celebrate (Gallo Images)
Auckland - Asaeli Tikoirotuma scored four tries as the Chiefs all but secured a Super Rugby playoffs berth with a 41-34 victory over an Blues side that refused to roll over at North Harbour Stadium in Albany on Saturday.
The victory consolidated the Chiefs's lead at the top of the Super Rugby standings as they moved to 58 points following the bonus-point win for scoring five tries.
Teams that achieved 57 points or more in the standings last year made the top-six playoffs.
"We are definitely happy with the five points. They were hard earned," Chiefs captain Liam Messam said in a pitchside interview. "It was a tough game and full credit to the Blues they really took it to us."
Tikoirotuma's fourth try turned out to be the matchwinner, though it had appeared his third, when he finished a brilliant counter-attacking move that had given the Chiefs a 34-20 lead, was seemingly the final nail in the Blues' coffin.
The Auckland side, who are second from bottom in the standings and have been disappointing all season, however, finally showed some of the form and spirit that had many picking them as title contenders before the season started.
The home side fought back when Chiefs lock Michael Fitzgerald became the third player yellow carded by referee Chris Pollock for sparking a fight, after home flanker Steven Luatua and Waikato winger Maritino Nemani were sinbinned for dangerous "tip" tackles in the first half.
The Blues used their numerical advantage to score two converted tries from Rudi Wulf and Rene Ranger, the latter a superb individual effort when he broke from an uncontested ruck and sprinted 60 metres down field, shrugging off several defenders.
The Blues had doggedly stuck with the Chiefs throughout the match, despite being pinned inside their own territory, and went into halftime level at 20-20 after Lachie Munro converted his own try following a superb break by Ranger.
Blues centre Francis Saili had also scored an early try, which Munro converted and added two penalties for the home side.
Tikoirotuma and inside centre Sonny Bill Williams scored first half tries for the visitors, while flyhalf Aaron Cruden matched Munro with two conversions and two penalties.
Blues - Tries: Francis Saili, Lachie Munro, Rudi Wulf, Rene Ranger. Conversions: Munro (4). Penalties: Munro (2)
Chiefs - Tries: Asaeli Tikoirotuma (4), Sonny Bill Williams. Conversions: Aaron Cruden (5). Penalties: Cruden (2)
Referee: Chris Pollock (NZL)
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