Cane injury takes the gloss off Chiefs' victory
The Chiefs answered a few questions about their preparedness for the Super Rugby season with a 43-19 victory in their final pre-season trial in Rotorua tonight.
But there are still a number of injury questions to be answered for the defending champions ahead of next Friday night's championship opener in Christchurch against the Crusaders.
"We're reasonably happy. It went pretty well up front, we got some real quality set-piece ball and while we gave away far too many penalties we were reasonably happy with the endeavour and were able to get our structures going," Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie said.
All Blacks Aaron Cruden (60 minutes), Liam Messam (40) and Brodie Retallick (50) all got useful game time and the only real concern was a first-half knee injury to Sam Cane.
"Hopefully it's not too bad, we took him off as precaution and we're just hopeful he'll be right by next week. Tanerau (Latimer) is doubtful for next week so we're keen to get Sam back out there," Rennie said.
The Chiefs gave away a lot of penalties so got a good defensive workout, but scored six tries to three, there were big improvements in a number of areas from last weekend's loss to the Reds and some potential stars shone including young winger James Lowe.
The Chiefs stamped a measure of control and sharpness from the start that was absent from their opponents' game.
Three tries to impressive 21-year-old hooker Rhys Marshall, co-skipper Messam and fellow loose forward Cane - all converted by Cruden - had the Chiefs out to 21-0 in the space of the first 26 minutes.
It was not a case of the Chiefs dominating the possession statistics to achieve that lead. The Blues had a welter of ball in that opening quarter but were sloppy with it and the more urgent home side were quick to counter.
Scrum and lineout were rock solid for the Chiefs, bar one lineout loss on their own throw and fullback Tim Nanai-Williams was a constant attacking threat out wide.
The Blues got themselves back in the game with back-to-back tries from fullback Charles Piutau in the 31st and 34th minutes but the Chiefs went to halftime ahead 24-12.
Again the Chiefs opened the second half with three tries in rapid succession - this time the first 14 minutes - to replacement loosie Nick Crosswell, Lowe and new centre Robbie Fruean. Lowe grew in stature through the game and it was his stunning outside break that set up Fruean's try.
At 43-12 the Chiefs subbed Cruden (13 points) with 'Maori All Black Ihaia West taking his place.
The Blues came back with a try to former Chief Jackson Willison but the trial petered out in scrappy fashion as one-sided pre-season encounters so often do.
Chiefs 43 (Rhys Marshall, Liam Messam, Sam Cane, Nick Crosswell, James Lowe, Robbie Fruean tries; Aaron Cruden 5 conversions, penalty goal) Blues 19 (Charles Piutau 2, Jackson Willison tries; Benji Marshall, Chris Noakes conversions). Halftime 24-12 Chiefs.