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Super Rugby: Chiefs punish 14-man Blues to secure NZ conference
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The Chiefs ran in four tries as they condemned the Blues to a 26-16 defeat in Auckland to secure their place at the top of the Super Rugby table.
A Ben Tameifuna brace combined with tries from Bundee Aki and Hika Elliot saw the Chiefs hold out against a spirited 14-man Blues to claim the New Zealand conference title and maintain top spot in the overall standings.
The Blues struck first through boot of Baden Kerr when the visitors were penalised for having hands in the ruck. Moments later the hosts infringed at the breakdown and Chiefs fly-half Aaron Cruden restored parity with ease.
Dave Rennie's Chiefs soon their stride to stretch the Blues defence before Aki found his way through to touch down the first try of the match in the corner.
Referee Chris Pollock provided the main talking point midway through the first half when he showed Blues flanker Kane Barrett a red card after replays appeared to show his boot making contact with heads in the ruck.
Despite being reduced to 14 men, Sir John Kirwan's side continued to press and regained the lead when Kerr's grubber was chased down Charles Piutau who crossed for the first Blues try of the night.
The Chiefs made good use of their man advantage when Elliot drove over the line off the back of a maul before Kerr levelled the scores once again just before the break.
Kirwan's Blues returned from the interval with intent and applied good pressure on the Chiefs defence to earn a penalty which Kerr duly converted into three points to regain the lead for the hosts.
However, Kerr found himself on the wrong side of a penalty moments later when he was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock down, leaving the Blues with 13 men on the field.
Chiefs prop Tameifuna ensured the visitors made took full advantage of the opposition's deficiency as he stretched over his head to touch down his fifth try of the season to recapture the lead.
The 21-year-old charged over again ten minutes later to add a bonus point try for the Chiefs as they attempted to take the game out of the Blues reach.
Both sides continued to create chances but it was ultimately the Chiefs who conquered as replacement fly-half Gareth Anscombe successfully dissected the posts to seal victory for the Waikato-based franchise.
The bonus-point win gives the Chiefs a three-point advantage over the Bulls at the summit and confirms a home semi-final while the Pretoria side had to settle for second place after losing to the Stormers in their final game.