SUPER RUGBY REPORT: THE CHIEFS CONTINUED THEIR IMPRESSIVE EARLY SEASON FORM WITH A CONVINCING 41-26 BONUS-POINT WIN OVER THE BLUES IN HAMILTON ON FRIDAY.
Don't let the final scoreline fool you.
The Chiefs had raced out to a 41-9 lead just on the hour mark, after the Blues were reduced to 14 men on the half-time hooter - the result of a cheap shot by All Black Steve Luatua, which will earn him a date with a disciplinary hearing for his act of foul play.
Luatua has already been formally charged with having contravened Law 10.4(e): Dangerous tackling of an opponent - for having clothes-lined Chiefs player Tim Nanai-Williams way off the ball.
The Case is to be considered in the first instance by the SANZAAR foul play review committee, which will take place on Sunday, March 5.
All SANZAAR disciplinary matters are in the first instance referred to the foul play review committee to provide the option of expediting the judicial process. For a matter to be dispensed with at this hearing, the person appearing must plead guilty and accept the penalty offered by the foul play review committee.
With the game in Hamilton - and seemingly bonus point - wrapped up, the Chiefs cleared the bench an took their collective feet off the gas.
It allowed the Blues - with a rush of All Blacks sent on from the bench - to score three late tries and salvage some pride.
The result was the Reds 11th straight win in the North Island derby against the Blues, a winning streak stretching back to March 2011.
The game opened at a frantic pace, with the Chiefs looking more threatening on attack but hampered by poor discipline and handling errors.
They scored two early tries, the first to Liam Messam from a driving maul and the second when Tim Nanai-Williams' blistering run set up Damian McKenzie.
But Ihaia West kicked three penalties to keep the Blues in touch and they looked like they could rally and challenge the Chiefs' formidable defence.
That changed when Luatua was shown a red card just before the break for a high tackle on Nanai-Williams.
The Chiefs immediately punished the infringement as Hika Elliot scored their third try from a maul.
They had a fourth within two minutes of the restart through Lachlan Boshier and there could have been two more as the shell-shocked Blues fell apart on defence.
Wing James Lowe brushed aside two half-hearted tackles for the Chiefs' fifth and Anton Lienert-Brown added another at the end of a slick passing move.
To their credit, the Blues fought back and scored two tries, one to lock Patrick Tuipulotu and the other coming when prop Charlie Faumuina sidestepped a tackler.
It narrowed the gap from 41-9 to 41-26, adding some respectability to the scoreline but the result had been beyond doubt soon after Luatua's departure.
Man of the match: There was, as usual, Aaron Cruden in his usual composed and creative manner. Lachlan Boshier, who was still working on a building site last year, is making a big statement this year. However, our award goes to the Chiefs' All Black lock Brodie Retallick, not just for his sublime work in the line-outs, but again the massive workrate.
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Messam, McKenzie, Elliot, Boshier, Lowe, Lienert-Brown
Cons: Cruden 4
For the Blues:
Tries: Tuipulotu, Faumuina, Ranger
Pens: West 3
Red card: Steve Luatua (Blues, 40 - foul play, dangerous tackle)
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Johnny Faauli, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Tuake'iaho, 17 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Tom Sanders, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Toni Pulu, 23 Shaun Stevenson.
Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Jimmy Tupou (captain), 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 Matt Moulds, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Jerome Kaino, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 George Moala, 23 Rene Ranger.
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
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