The record books will show the Blues lost last night’s game against the Chiefs 26-16, but they won what mattered most – the respect of their fans.
Never have the Eden Park faithful been upstanding to applaud a defeat, but the heart, courage and commitment the Blues showed to fight against the odds deserved such praise that the 25,118 strong crowd cheered the Blues off the field like they’d won.
Reduced to 14 men after Kane Barrett was sensationally red carded 23 minutes in for stomping, and then to 13 when Baden Kerr was sin binned midway through the second half for an innocuous knock down, referee Chris Pollock effectively ended any chance the Blues had of defeating the Chiefs.
But despite the numerical disadvantage, the Blues battled desperately to keep themselves in the game, throwing everything at the defending champions.
With the scores level at 13-all at the break, the Chiefs ran away with the second half as barnstorming prop Ben Tameifuna crossed twice to give the visitors a comfortable, if not flattering, 26-16 win to consolidate their position at the top of the table at the end of the round robin.
It wasn’t the ideal swansong for Ali Williams, Anthony Boric and Rene Ranger who all played their final games for the Blues before heading overseas, however it was certainly a night for them to remember as they, along with their teammates, gave their all.
First five-eighths Baden Kerr and Aaron Cruden traded penalties in the opening encounters before Chiefs midfielder Bundee Aki crossed for the first try after 14 minutes.
With the Blues looking threatening and really taking it to the Chiefs, the red carding of Kane Barrett in the 23rd minute was a killer blow.
Barrett was sent to the sideline for stomping on the head of Chiefs co-captain Craig Clarke, however video replays showed the Blues flanker’s boot hardly scraped him. The smile of Clarke said it all as he watched Barrett head to the sideline for the remaining 57 minutes.
However despite being reduced to 14 men, the Blues hit back with a superb try to Charles Piutau after 28 minutes.
Seeing there was no-one in behind, Kerr put a deft grubber through and as the ball rolled into the in-goal, Charles Piutau had too much pace to beat the retreating Chiefs players as he dived on the ball to score.
The Chiefs soon hit back, hooker Hika Elliot crashing over after a sustained period of pressure, however Kerr slotted a penalty goal on halftime to tie up the scores at 13-all at the break.
The 14-man Blues continued to defy the odds in the second half and took the lead three minutes in as Kerr calmly nailed another penalty, however when the Blues first-five was sent to the sin-bin for deliberately knocking down the ball, things got even tougher for the Blues.
The pressure eventually took its toll as monstruous Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna bashed his way through a pile of Blues defenders to score his first try of the evening, before finishing off the Blues with his second try with 17 minutes remaining.