Chiefs battle in rain, seal Super playoffs spot

20:39, Jul 11 2014
2014 Blues season
Tom Donnelly on the charge against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
2014 Blues season
Chris Noakes of the Blues, centre, is hit hard by Brad Thorn, left.
2014 Blues season
A bloodied Peter Saili shows his battle scars from the clash with the Highlanders.
2014 Blues season
Benji Marshall, right, made his Super Rugby debut for the Blues in Dunedin. Here he is grappling for the ball with Highlander Richard Buckman.
Keven Mealamu and Benji Marshall
Keven Mealamu congratulates Benji Marshall after the Blues' dominant victory over the Crusaders.
Simon Hickey
Super Rugby rookie Simon Hickey kicks the ball clear.
Frank Halai
Blues wing Frank Halai is tackled by Crusaders prop Tim Perry.
George Moala
George Moala breaks through the Crusaders defence.
Steven Luatua
Steven Luatua is shown a yellow card by referee Garrett Williamson.
Blues 2014 season
Tom Donnelly of the Blues, far right, fires out a pass under pressure from the Bulls' chasers.
Blues 2014 season
James Parsons of the Blues, centre, leads a team talk during his side's clash with the Bulls in South Africa.
Blues 2014 season
Blues halfback Piri Weepu goes searching for the ball against the Bulls.
Piri Weepu of the Blues
Blues lock Liaki Moli in action against the Bulls.
Frank Halai
Blues wing Frank Halai is pulled down short of the try line.
George Moala
George Moala flings a pass back in-field as he's grabbed by the ankle.
Simon Hickey
Substitute first-five Simon Hickey gets a Blues attacking move started.
Luke Braid
Luke Braid crashes into a Lions player in Johannesburg.
Charles Piutau
Charles Piutau drags a Lions player with him, as Benji Marshall and Chris Noakes support.
2014 Blues season
Charles Piutau makes a break for the Blues against the Highlanders at Eden Park.
2014 Blues season
Benji Marshall of the Blues takes on the Highlanders defence.
2014 Blues season
Young Blues first five Simon Hickey lines up a kick at goal against the Highlanders at Eden Park.
2014 Blues season
Former All Black Jerome Kaino made a winning return to the Blues against the Highlanders.
2014 Blues season
Joe Tomane of the Brumbies tackles Blues wing Charles Piutau as the teams square off in Canberra.
2014 Blues season
Blues flanker Steven Luatua tries to get to grips with the Brumbies' Pat McCabe.
2014 Blues season
Blues halfback Bryn Hall spins a lovely pass from a ruck during his team's clash with the Brumbies in Canberra.
2014 Blues season
Benji Marshall has a cut at the Brumbies defence in Canberra.
2014 Blues season
Bryn Hall of the Blues runs the ball during their round ten match against the Hurricanes.
2014 Blues season
George Moala of the Blues is tackled by Dane Coles of the Hurricanes.
2014 Blues season
Chris Noakes of the Blues is tackled by Beauden Barrett of the Hurricanes.
2014 Blues season
Jerome Kaino of the Blues is tackled by Jeffery Toomaga-Allen of the Hurricanes.
2014 Blues season
Jerome Kaino of the Blues charges forward during their match against the Waratahs.
2014 Blues season
Peter Saili of the Blues offloads the ball in the tackle of Michael Hooper of the Waratahs.
2014 Blues season
Luke Braid of the Blues is tackled by Dave Dennis of the Waratahs.
2014 Blues season
Piri Weepu of the Blues during their match against the Waratahs.
2014 Blues season
Flanker Jerome Kaino looks a beaten man during the Blues' loss to the Chiefs in New Plymouth.
2014 Blues season
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan gives his side some instruction in New Plymouth.
2014 Blues season
Blues centre Ma'a Nonu spins a pass out under pressure from the Chiefs' Bundee Aki.
2014 Blues season
Blues winger Frank Halai makes a charge against the Chiefs at Yarrow Stadium.
Blues 2014 season
Lolagi Visinia of the Blues charges at the Reds defence at Eden Park.
Blues 2014 season
Blues centre George Moala sends Kiwi-born Reds playmaker Quade Cooper crashing to the ground.
Blues 2014 season
Blues No 10 Simon Hickey is tackled by the Reds' Jake Schatz during their teams' clash at Eden Park in Auckland.
2014 Blues season
Ihaia West of the Blues is congratulated by teammate Steven Luatua after scoring a try against the Reds at Eden Park.
Ma'a Nonu
Ma'a Nonu (left) celebrates with team mate George Moala after a try during the round 17 Super Rugby match between the Force and the Blues at nib Stadium in Perth.
Peter Saili
Peter Saili of the Blues is tackled during his side's round 17 Super Rugby match against the Force.
Ma'a Nonu
Blues second-five Ma'a Nonu is tackled during his side's win over the Force in Perth.
Dane Haylett-Petty
Dane Haylett-Petty of the Force is smashed by the Blues defence during a Super Rugby meeting between the two sides in round 17.
Steven Luatua
Steven Luatua of the Blues is tackled during his side's win over the Force in Perth.
Ma'a Nonu
Blues star Ma'a Nonu is tackled by Dan Carter of the Crusaders during their round 18 Super Rugby match in Christchurch.
Andy Ellis
Andy Ellis, centre, of the Crusaders is tackled by Blues players Tony Woodcock (left) and Luke Braid (right) during his side's win in Christchurch.
Dominic Bird
Crusaders lock Dominic Bird powers through a number of would-be Blues defenders at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
Nemani Nadolo
Nemani Nadolo of the Crusaders dives over to score a try against the Blues in round 18.
Dan Carter
Crusaders second-five Dan Carter is tackled by All Blacks team-mate and Blues prop Tony Woodcock.
Jerome Kaino
Jerome Kaino of the Blues is tackled by Andy Ellis of the Crusaders during their round 18 Super Rugby match in Christchurch.
Jerome Kaino
Jerome Kaino bruising as ever in the Blues' round 19 Super Rugby match against the Chiefs.
Jerome Kaino
Keven Mealamu runs onto the pitch ahead of the Blues' final match of the Super Rugby season.
Jerome Kaino
Charles Piutau on a spirited run in the Blues' round 19 Super Rugby match against the Chiefs.
Jerome Kaino
Blues players Francis Saili, Ma'a Nonu, Bryn Hall, Jerome Kaino and Sam Prattley look dejected after losing their last game of the Super Rugby season.
Jerome Kaino
Blues fans felt dejected too.

Chiefs will appear in the Super Rugby playoffs for the third year in a row and they are there because of a defence based on team spirit.

Their refusal to roll over gave them a hard-fought 11-8 victory over the Blues at Eden Park last night and the four competition points they needed to propel them into the post-season.

In wet, windy conditions the back-to-back champions refused to give in against a torrent of possession and territory that favoured the home side in front of an 18,100 crowd.

The Blues made their intentions plain from the outset, turning down a succession of kickable penalties to turn up the heat on the Chiefs with a string of scrums in the red zone.

But despite an initial edge in the scrums and having the rain-laden wind at their backs, the hosts were unable to crack the Chiefs' defence, getting over the goal line three times without reward.

Both Steven Luatua and Charlie Faumuina were held up and Jerome Kaino lost the ball forward over the line in the tackle of Tawera Kerr-Barlow as he charged down the blindside of a 5m scrum.

As the penalties mounted the Chiefs were warned by referee Glen Jackson, but they held it together sufficiently to keep all their players on the field and survived a gruelling opening 15 minutes on defence.

Once they got some ball they could attack with Aaron Cruden making a break and kicking ahead, but mistakes in the testing conditions meant they kept turning the ball over as regularly as the Blues did.

As soon as the Chiefs got a penalty in the Blues' half of the field they went for goal and with his second attempt, in the 23rd minute, Cruden kicked them into a 3-0 lead they held to halftime.

But the second quarter was an eventful one, Chiefs fullback Tom Marshall losing the ball forward in a tackle as he gunned it for the left corner and then, when a powerful forward attack did not bring reward four minutes from halftime, Jackson called for a review of potential foul play.

The replay revealed a no-arms tackle by Ma'a Nonu on Chiefs centre Tim Nanai-Williams and the Blues second-five was yellow-carded. Interestingly, the Chiefs this time turned down the kick and went for a lineout, from which they turned the ball over at the end of a powerful drive.

The Blues lost two players to injury in the first 40 minutes, skipper Keven Mealamu replaced in his record-equalling 162nd Super Rugby appearance and winger Lolaga Visinia also forced off the field.

A change of tactics was immediate for the Blues going into the second spell and they took the first opportunity to kick for goal, with Ihaia West converting a short-range penalty after three minutes.

He had another kick from 37 metres just three minutes later but hit an upright and immediately the Blues were restored to 15 men with the return of Nonu from the sin-bin.

However, it was the Chiefs who struck next. Just two minutes later co-captain Liam Messam snatched a wide pass from West on the halfway line, racing 50m to score from the intercept to make it 8-3 to the visitors.

Cruden missed a relatively easy conversion attempt but the five-pointer was a hammer blow to the Blues, who were again dominating possession in the early part of the half.

He also missed a 50m penalty attempt seven minutes later but it put the Chiefs at the attacking end of the field and eventually he got another chance, making no mistake from a similar distance to push the lead out to 11-3.

But the Blues weren't done and came back to exert more pressure on the Chiefs, who received another warning from Jackson.

In the 65th minute lock Mike Fitzgerald was sent to the sin-bin and after Blues halfback Bryn Hall was held up over the line, replacement winger George Moala scored on the blindside of a 5m scrum.

That was the extent of the damage while Fitzgerald was in the bin, though, and the Chiefs were able to hold out and used up the final minute with a long-range kick at goal from Gareth Anscombe.

Chiefs 11 (Liam Messam try; Aaron Cruden 2 penalty goals) Blues 8 (George Moala try; Ihaia West penalty goal). HT: 3-0

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Aaron Cruden
Aaron Cruden barks out a play call during the Chiefs Super Rugby opener against the Crusaders.
Israel Dagg
Chiefs players Charlie Ngatai and Mils Muliaina attempt to bring down Israel Dagg.
Augustine Pulu and Tim Nanai-Williams
Chiefs players Augustine Pulu and Tim Nanai-Williams jump high for a high-ball against the Crusaders.
Robbie Fruean
Chiefs centre Robbie Fruean has a barnstroming game against his former Crusaders team.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow
Halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow runs onto Waikato Stadium to face the Highlanders.
Liam Messam
Liam Messam runs into the tackle of Highlanders hooker Liam Coltman.
Tim Nanai-Williams
Chiefs fullback Tim Nanai-Williams glides through a gap in the Highlanders defensive line.
Chiefs fans
Chiefs fans enjoyed a two-point victory against the Highlanders.
Michael Fitzgerald
Chiefs lock Michael Fitzgerald charges forward at the Highlanders.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow
Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow sprints away from a scrum.
Gareth Anscombe
Gareth Anscombe cuts through the Stormers' defence late in the game.
Aaron Cruden and Jean de Villiers
Aaron Cruden brings down Stormers second-five Jean de Villiers.
James Lowe
Chiefs wing James Lowe confronts the Stormers defence.
Tom Marshall
Tom Marshall toes the ball on in the Chiefs' impressive win over the Stormers.
2014 Chiefs season
Caille Visagie and Dean Greyling of the Bulls tackle Tom Marshall of the Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld.
2014 Chiefs season
Prop Ben Tameifuna of the Chiefs tries in vain to keep the ball under control against the Bulls in Pretoria.
Ben Tameifuna
Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow tries to make a break against the Bulls in South Africa.
2014 Chiefs season
Jacques Du Plessis of the Bulls crashes trough the Chiefs' defensive line.
Chiefs 2014 Season
Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick lines up Cheetahs hooker Adriaan Strauss for a hard tackle.
Chiefs 2014 season
Michael Fitzgerald makes a charge for the Chiefs against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Chiefs 2014 season
Gareth Anscombe chases down a loose ball against the Cheetahs in South Africa.
Chiefs 2014 season
Chiefs halfback Augustine Pulu looks to offload after being grounded by the Melbourne Rebels' defence.
Chiefs 2014 season
Tom Marshall on the charge for the Chiefs against the Rebels in Hamilton.
Chiefs 2014 season
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna makes a charge against the Rebels at Waikato Stadium.
Chiefs 2014 season
Sam Cane in action against the Melbourne Rebels.
Chiefs 2014 season
Gareth Anscombe of the Chiefs looks for support in the tackle of Kieran Reid of the Crusaders.
Chiefs 2014 season
Tom Marshall of the Chiefs loses possession in the slippery conditions during the Chiefs and Crusaders match.
Chiefs 2014 season
Tom Marshall of the Chiefs takes a high ball under pressure from Johnny McNicholl of the Crusaders.
Chiefs 2014 season
Christian Lealiifano of the Brumbies is tackled during their match against the Chiefs.
Chiefs 2014 season
Tevita Koloamatangi of the Chiefs is tackled during their match against the Brumbies.
Chiefs 2014 season
Liam Messam of the Chiefs runs the ball during their match against the Brumbies.
Chiefs 2014 Season
Gareth Anscombe of the Chiefs scores a try in the tackle of Franco Mostert of the Lions.
Chiefs 2014 season
Tim Nanai-Williams of the Chiefs scores a try against the Lions in Hamilton.
Chiefs 2014 season
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna makes a charge at the Lions defence during their Super Rugby clash.
Chiefs 2014 season
Chiefs prop Jamie Mackintosh puts the head down to make some hard yards for his team against the Lions.
2014 Chiefs season
Fireworks go off at Yarrow Stadium ahead of the Chiefs' home clash with the Blues in New Plymouth.
2014 Chiefs season
Tom Marshall, centre, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a try for the Chiefs against the Blues in New Plymouth.
2014 Chiefs season
Chiefs fans delighted to get the chance to cheer their team on in New Plymouth.
2014 Chiefs season
Liam Messam, right, asks referee Mike Fraser to go to the TMO during the Chiefs' clash with the Blues.
Chiefs vs Waratahs
The Chiefs put the pressure on the Waratahs' Jacques Potgieter in New Plymouth.
Chiefs vs Waratahs
Kurtley Beale and Wycliff Palu take down Chiefs fullback Tom Marshall at Taranaki Stadium.
Conrad Smith
Hurricanes skipper Conrad Smith makes a pass during his side's clash with the Chiefs.
Tim Nanai-Williams
Tim Nanai-Williams is tackled by Dane Coles.
Brodie Retallick
Brodie Retallick runs it against the Hurricanes in Wellington.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow
Tawera Kerr-Barlow flicks a pass out during the Chiefs' clash with the Waratahs.
Aaron Cruden
Chiefs first-five Aaron Cruden attempts to sidestep a tackle during his side's clash with the Waratahs.
Tanerau Latimer
Tanerau Latimer of the Chiefs makes a break during his side's Super Rugby clash with the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Bundee Aki
Bundee Aki of the Chiefs looks to take the high ball during his side's 29-25 loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Tim Nanai-Williams
Tim Nanai-Williams scores a try for the Chiefs during their round 17 Super Rugby match against the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Gareth Anscombe
Gareth Anscombe of Chiefs on the attack during his side's round 17 Super Rugby match against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma
Asaeli Tikoirotuma from the Chiefs during his side's 24-16 win over the Hurricanes in Hamilton.
Hadleigh Parkes
Hadleigh Parkes from the Hurricanes celebrates a try during his side's Super Rugby clash against the Chiefs in Hamilton.
Ben Tameifuna
Ben Tameifuna of the Chiefs steps out of the tackles of Ardie Savea (left) and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen of the Hurricanes during his side's round 18 Super Rugby win in Hamilton.
Jeremy Thrush
Jeremy Thrush of the Hurricanes charges into Liam Messam of the Chiefs with the assistance of Ben Franks (left) during the round 18 clash between the two sides at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.
Ardie Savea
Ardie Savea of the Hurricanes is tackled by Chiefs captain Aaron Cruden during the round 18 fixture at Waikato Stadium.
Brodie Retallick
Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick reaches for the ball.
Brodie Retallick
Halfback Tawera Kerr Barlow topples over in the Chiefs' round 19 Super Rugby game against the Blues.
Brodie Retallick
Chiefs first five Aaron Cruden barks orders at his team during their Super Rugby match against the Blues at Eden Park.
Brodie Retallick
Chiefs players Aaron Cruden and Tim Nanai-Williams share their joy at making it to the Super Rugby playoffs after beating the Blues at Eden Park.
Brodie Retallick
Good sportsmanship was on show after the Chiefs beat the Blues at Eden Park with Bundee Aki sharing a moment with Ma'a Nonu.
Bundee Aki
Bundee Aki runs into the Brumbies defence at GIO Stadium.
Pat McCabe
Brumbies second-five Pat McCabe is lifted off his feet in a Chiefs tackle.
Pauliasi Manu
Pauliasi Manu illustrates the Chiefs' disappointment at the final whistle.
Ben Tameifuna
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna on the charge.
Liam Messam
Liam Messam brings down Brumbies No 10 Christian Lealiifano.
Augustine Pulu
Augustine Pulu looks to break a Brumbies tackle.
Brodie Retallick
OPPORTUNITY: Chiefs’ Brodie Retallick looks to offload the ball against the Blues at Eden Park on Friday night. Retallick has been a standout performer for the defending champions in recent matches.

Waikato Times