Luke McAlister slotted a 72nd minute long-range penalty to give the Auckland Blues a tight 16-13 victory over the Waikato Chiefs in their Super rugby match at a rain-drenched Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday.
McAlister added two other penalties and a conversion of Jared Payne’s try, which he had set up with a grubber kick, to give the Auckland-based side the lead in the New Zealand conference of the southern hemisphere’s competition.
Chiefs captain Liam Messam and prop Sona Taumalolo scored tries for the Chiefs, while flyhalf Mike Delany slotted a penalty.
“Conditions evened the game out and both teams played with a lot of passion and we were lucky to come away with the points and win that game,” Blues captain Keven Mealamu said.
“Playing at the right part of the field at the right time and we did that better in the second half and were able to build pressure.”
The Chiefs used the slippery conditions to perfection in the first minute when they hacked ahead a dropped pass by winger Rene Ranger and kept chasing as Blues defenders struggled to control the ball before Messam got the final touch and dived on the ball over the line.
The home side doubled the advantage after Lelia Masaga somehow managed to squeeze out of a tackle and sparked an attack that ended after several phases when Taumalolo burrowed over in the 22nd minute.
The Blues, who were dominating the scrums, used that superiority to set up camp on the Chiefs’ tryline for almost six minutes winning penalty after penalty as the hosts collapsed the scrum or infringed in the tackle.
However, they were unable to convert and a counter-ruck by the Chiefs after another scrum broke up to alleviate the pressure and ensured they went into the break leading 10-6 after McAlister, who had slotted an earlier long-range penalty, kicked another on half-time.
The Blues seized the lead for the first time when All Blacks winger Sitiveni Sivivatu bobbled a grubber kick from McAlister only for Payne to toe ahead and dive on the ball just before it went out the back of the in-goal area.
McAlister converted to give the Blues a 13-10 lead, though Mike Delany tied the game again with his first penalty, before McAlister’s third penalty sealed it for the visitors. – Reuters