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Hat-trick of defeats for Blues
McAlister off target as New Zealanders slip up in Auckland
The Blues' play-off chances took a knock after losing 16-11 to the Chiefs in Auckland on Saturday - their third defeat in succession.
Both sides scored one try each, but the wayward kicking of Blues pivot Luke McAlister proved to cost his side dearly after missing five shots at goal.
Opposite number Stephen Donald contributed 11 of his side's points courtesy of three penalties and a conversion to deny the home side a crucial win.
Victory would have pushed the Blues one clear of the Stormers and provisionally level with the ladder-leading Reds. Instead, the former tournament leaders face losing their grasp at the top of the NZ Conference when they face the Crusaders next weekend.
The Chiefs held a narrow 7-6 lead at half-time and the scoreline was still close as time ran down, but some desperate defence from the visitors got them home.
McAlister's range was accurate early on, after giving the Blues an early 6-0 lead thanks to two penalties - one an impressive 55m effort - while Donald missed the same amount of attempts from bang in front.
The Chiefs struck gold in the 27th minute though when veteran centre Tana Umaga worked his magic in the midfield to put Mils Muliaina away before finishing off in the corner.
Donald - with his hardest kick of the match - made no mistake from the touchline and the Chiefs hit the front 7-6, maintaining that lead into the half-time break.
The Blues hit back strongly in the second half, after centre Jared Payne touched down in the corner after seven minutes. McAlister was unable to add the extras, but the hosts were back in front.
It didn't last long. Two further Donald penalties gave his team a narrow 13-11 lead which they defended stubbornly, before the Chiefs pivot added a measure of safety with another penalty two minutes from the final whistle.
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|Friday 13th February|
|06:35||Crusaders vs Melbourne Rebels|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Reds|
|17:10||Lions vs Hurricanes|
|Saturday 14th February|
|06:35||Blues vs Chiefs|
|15:05||Sharks vs Cheetahs|
|17:05||Bulls vs Stormers|
|Sunday 15th February|
|06:05||Waratahs vs Western Force|
|Friday 20th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Brumbies|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Waratahs|
|17:10||Bulls vs Hurricanes|
|Saturday 21st February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Crusaders|
|08:40||Reds vs Western Force|
|15:05||Stormers vs Blues|
|17:10||Sharks vs Lions|
|Friday 27th February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Reds|
|11:00||Western Force vs Hurricanes|
|17:10||Cheetahs vs Blues|
|Saturday 28th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Crusaders|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Brumbies|
|15:05||Bulls vs Sharks|
|17:10||Lions vs Stormers|
|Friday 6th March|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Highlanders|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Western Force|
|Saturday 7th March|
|06:35||Blues vs Lions|
|08:40||Reds vs Waratahs|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com