NZ’s Super Rugby domination continues: Blues, Chiefs win

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DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 02: Finlay Christie of the Blues dives over to score a try during the round 8 Super Rugby Aotearoa match between the Highlanders and the Blues at Forsyth Barr Stadium on August 02, 2020 in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Winger Bryce Heem scored three tries for the Auckland-based Blues who were at their best and worst as they beat the New South Wales Waratahs 48-21 Saturday in the combined Australia-New Zealand Super Rugby tournament.

The Blues took a bonus point from a win by seven tries to three. In doing so they showed the two faces their fans are familiar with, scoring some excellent breakout tries, mainly through Heem, while botching several more and conceding soft tries from defensive lapses.

Later, the Hamilton-based Chiefs extended to nine games the unbeaten start by New Zealand teams in the trans-Tasman competition with a 40-19 win over the ACT Brumbies.

Luke Jacobson scored two first-half tries off the back of a dominant scrum to set the Chiefs on the road to their second-straight win in the competition.

Slick second-half tries to backs Damian McKenzie, Alex Nankivell and Anton Lienert-Brown drove home the Chiefs’ advantage over the Brumbies, who started with Len Ikitau’s try but then lacked the possession and field position to threaten the home side.

A last-minute try by Rob Valetini cost the Chiefs their biggest-ever win over the Brumbies by margin.

The Blues also started strongly in their win over the Waratahs.

After opening an early 15-0 lead with Heem’s first try and another to captain Tom Robinson, created by Heem, the Blues seemed to be cantering to victory. But their concentration and defensive intensity flagged and the Waratahs hit back with tries to prop Angus Bell and scrumhalf Jake Gordon to reduce the lead to 15-14.

Hooker Kurt Eklund scored from a lineout drive to expand the Blues’ lead to 22-14 at halftime and they finished strongly in the second half against a waning Waratahs team which slumped to a club-record 10th straight loss.

“We came out and had a good start but then fell into the trap you can have when you make a good start,” Robinson said. “They came back and we were into a bit of a dogfight. We looked for a better attitude and the boys brought it in the second half.”

The Blues had dangerous players out wide in Heem, a former New Zealand sevens player who recently has played in Britain and France, and All Blacks winger Rieko Ioane. But poorly-constructed attacks too often broke down before the ball could reach those players.

Heem scored his first try after only eight minutes when he received the ball out wide and stepped through several tackles close to the line. He added another in the 67th minute and completed his hat trick with an intercept just before fulltime.

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