Via Stuff.co.nz, written by Aaron Goile
The Chiefs will go searching for answers this week after being kept tryless for the first time in 57 Super Rugby games, by a Blues side, who, in contrast, are talking about creating a legacy.
A scrappy affair at a wet FMG Stadium Waikato on Saturday night saw the Blues grind out a 24-12 win, seeing them sit pretty at 2-0 to start the revamped Super Rugby Aotearoa competition.
But for their adversaries south of the Bombays, it’s a rather different story, now at 0-2 and facing a daunting trip to Christchurch to face the three-time defending Super Rugby champion Crusaders next Sunday.
The last time the Chiefs had been kept tryless in Super Rugby was 1421 days prior to this match, in their 25-9 semifinal defeat to the Hurricanes in Wellington in 2016.
They had also never failed to cross the line against the Blues in any of the 33 previous games between the sides.
While slippery conditions played a major part in their struggles on Saturday, the hosts were also guilty of forcing 50-50 balls and taking high percentage options, which saw them unable to convert despite plenty of early opportunity.
“We’re probably trying to force a few things at times,” coach Warren Gatland said, after his side dropped three home games in a row for the first time since a four-game stretch in 2001-02.
“It was one of those days in terms of just keeping a cool head and being comfortable playing a bit of territory and waiting for our opportunities.”
With a turnover count of 16-8, first five-eighth Aaron Cruden said it was disappointing to go two weeks in a row without nailing their chances, and was certain attack coach Roger Randle would be challenging them to be better this week.
“We still feel like we generated enough opportunities to put them under pressure, but similar to last week, probably just in those pressure moments, where it really counted, we didn’t quite execute what we needed to,” he said.
“It’s something we pride ourselves on… it’s something we’ll have to address and make sure we get right, considering next week we’re going down south to play the Crusaders.
“It’s always hard to rock in [on Monday], and the body always seems to be a little bit more sore, when you lose compared to when you win.
“In this competition, there’s only, for us, another six games, so we have to turn things around quickly if we want to push for that top spot.”
Gatland suggested his backs may have been “overplaying” their hands in order to try to overcompensate for what has been a shaky set piece. The lineout struggled for a second straight week, and the Chiefs will again be without influential lock Tyler Ardron for next weekend, as he continues to nurse a hamstring issue.
Gatland also confirmed stand-in skipper Brad Weber, who was forced off with concussion with 15 minutes to play, passed his HIA, but would have to go through the protocols this week.
Regular captain Sam Cane – who has missed the first two rounds due to a lower back injury – is also still an uncertainty.
“He went for a scan and he’s probably going to get an injection, so hopefully if they get the right spot he’s not going to be too far away,” Gatland said.
Meanwhile, it’s a buoyant Blues side who will host the Highlanders in Auckland next Saturday night.
Their win over the Chiefs was a franchise-record fifth away victory in succession and it’s now six wins on the trot all up, which they haven’t managed since the seven they notched in 2011.
Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu was delighted with the way his side was able to handle the occasion and get the job done, but is well aware there is more hard work to be done.
“The Blues team of old would have just went in there with all emotions and no process, really,” he said.
“We know it’s only game two, it’s only the start.
“We’re looking at the bigger picture, we want a lot of success.
“I’m happy with how we’re tracking in terms of how we go about our week, working towards a game. It’s something that we’ve definitely improved as a whole group – the coaching staff right down to the players and a lot of staff off the field.
“This whole group’s determined to make a legacy, and make something out of it.
“I’m pretty thrilled with what we’re doing so far, but the challenge is now to be consistent and actually make it happen.”