Gerard Cowley-Tuioti sealed a vital win for the Auckland Blues who snapped an eight-year, 15-match winless run against the Waikato Chiefs with a 23-8 victory in Auckland on Saturday.
Cowley-Tuioti’s try after the full-time hooter ensured a vital bonus point with a four tries to one performance.
It was the first time the Blues have beaten their nearest neighbours since round six in 2011.
It also ended a run of four consecutive losses, moved them ahead of the Chiefs into fourth-place in the New Zealand conference and kept alive their slim hope of making the play offs.
“It’s very satisfying,” an elated Blues skipper Patrick Tuipulotu said.
“After our run in the last couple of games to come in and finish it off like that, I’m very happy.”
However, the Chiefs will find it hard to recover from a record which now shows seven losses from 13 matches.
Chiefs captain Brad Weber described the outcome as “incredibly frustrating”.
“We were our own worst enemies out there. I’d hate to know the territory and possession stats, it would break my heart.”
Despite enjoying 64 percent of possession, the Blues made hard work of securing the win and held a slender 10-8 lead at half-time.
In the opening plays of the game, both sides opted for scrums instead of penalties in the shadow of the posts, only to turn over the ball.
The Blues blew their chance when Ma’a Nonu dropped the ball, allowing Weber to direct play to the other end of the field where the Chiefs scoring chance evaporated with a forward pass.
The Blues swept back on attack only to turn over the ball when they mounted a five-metre lineout drive.
That presented another opportunity for the Chiefs to mount a length-of–the-field attack and put first points on the board.
Rieko Ioane was caught in possession on his own line and when he tried to offload the ball it was grabbed by Mitchell Karpik who dotted down for the try.
The Blues also benefitted from turnover ball for their first points with Harry Plummer scoring in the corner to level the score.
When a Marty McKenzie penalty put the Chiefs back in front, the Blues regained the lead with a Melani Nanai try just before half-time.
A Plummer penalty and a try to Ofa Tu’ungafasi in the second half pushed the Blues out for 18-8 before Cowley-Tuioti’s try capped the performance.
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