Search

show me:

Blues break Super Rugby drought in grand final blowout

3 minute read

The Blues have clinched their first Super Rugby final in more than two decades, beating the Chiefs 41-10 in a slippery all-New Zealand showdown in Auckland.

Patrick Tuipulotu.
Patrick Tuipulotu. Picture: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Captain Patrick Tuipulotu has defied a doctor's prognosis that his season was over to lead the Blues to their first Super Rugby title in 21 years, sweeping aside the Chiefs in a 41-10 drubbing at a sold-out Eden Park.

In the first final between the two New Zealand sides in their 28-year history, the Blues were dominant.

The driving Auckland rain precluded any chance of expansive rugby breaking out on Saturday night, which suited the hosts just fine.

Winger Caleb Clarke became just the second player to score a hat-trick in a Super Rugby grand final after Mark Gerrard for the ACT Brumbies in 2004, but his contribution was overshadowed by the Blues' forward pack.

As they had done throughout the season, the likes of Akira Ioane, Marcel Renata and Tuipulotu laid the foundation for the win in slippery conditions, controlling territory and possession and heaping pressure on the visitors.

Tuipulotu's will go down as one of the all-time great grand final performances, four weeks ahead of his scheduled return from a knee injury.

He showed no signs of self-preservation, amassing a mountain of metres and a line-break in a powerhouse display that earned him a standing ovation from the home fans as he was subbed off.

"It's a surreal feeling," Tuipulotu said after the match.

"Just a lot of joy. It's been a long time and I'm really proud of the effort that our team has put in to get us this win.

"We wanted to add to the legacy of Blues rugby, and we can be proud that we've done that."

The Chiefs defended valiantly, but they were out-muscled and outclassed on a joyless night.

It was always going to be a challenge beating the Blues on their home turf - the Aucklanders have not been defeated at Eden Park since March 2023.

Simon Parker scored the Chiefs' first try of the night with 15 minutes left to go, but by then the damage was done.

The Blues opened the scoring in their first real attacking foray of the game, Ioane burrowing over from a point-blank ruck.

The Japan-bound flanker and his brother Rieko teamed up to set up the first and best of Clarke's trio of tries, somehow contriving to keep the ball in play and juggling it into the hands of the All Blacks winger to score in the corner.

Clarke one-upped his father Eroni, who scored a try to help the Blues win the inaugural Super Rugby grand final in 1996.

"I'm just super proud, and not only of my family, but so many other families that have backed the boys week in and week out," Caleb Clarke said, choking back tears.

"The 23 out here weren't doing it alone. We had a whole tribe behind us."

The Chiefs' night was made worse 10 minutes into the second half. As the pressure and the penalties piled up, referee Nic Berry lost his patience and sent George Dyer to the sin bin for a ruck infringement.

After Parker's consolation try, AJ Lam scored the Blues' fifth try to seal the deal.

As the Blues celebrated their first title win since 2003 and the equal most one-sided grand final win by a New Zealand team, a hint of a smile forced its way on to coach Vern Cotter's stony face.

In his first season in charge, the first-time Super Rugby Pacific coach has transformed the Blues into one of the most formidable forward sides in the competition's recent history.

With this win Cotter has cemented his status as one of New Zealand rugby's finest tacticians.

What are you prepared to lose today? Set a deposit limit.

For free and confidential support call 1800 858 858 or visit www.gamblinghelponline.org.au