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Chiefs claim Blues scalp in Super Rugby

NZN 3/03/2017 Angelo Risso

Blues loose forward Steven Luatua has become the first Kiwi victim of World Rugby's new high tackle laws, receiving a red card as his side were conquered 41-26 by the Chiefs in Super Rugby.

Luatua, with his side 15-9 down in the final seconds of the first half, smashed Tim Nanai-Williams high and late with a swinging arm near the Blues' 22-yard line.

While the crunching blow may have produced just a yellow card in 2016, Kiwi referee Ben O'Keefe had no choice but to brandish red.

The loss of the 25-year-old caused the Tana Umaga-coached side to wither early in the second half, having already struggled against the Chiefs lineout.

A spirited late comeback, spurred by the introduction of the side's All Blacks off the bench, then saved face but wasn't enough to prevent a six-tries-to-three loss.

"Enjoyed the game tonight, it was pretty free-flowing," Chiefs skipper and new Super Rugby centurion Aaron Cruden said.

"We were good in patches (but) there's always things to work on."

An early Blues penalty goal opened the scoring but the Chiefs were the first to draw blood in the seventh minute when Liam Messam bludgeoned his way over.

Fly-half Ihaia West then notched two more penalty goals for the Blues before the Waikato boys reasserted control with an outstanding long-range Damian McKenzie try.

A clever offload from Brodie Retallick found Tim Nanai-Williams in space, before the Samoan international threw to Cruden to put McKenzie in the corner.

The two sides continued in a similar vein for the following 18 minutes, with the Blues struggling at the set-piece and the Chiefs conceding penalties.

Retallick and fellow lock Dominic Bird pinched three straight mid-half Blues lineouts, while West had five penalty goal attempts.

But the match was turned on its head as the 40-minute mark ticked over, with Luatua receiving his marching orders.

The Chiefs then rubbed salt in the Blues wounds by scoring off the resulting penalty and driving maul through hooker Hika Elliot.

Umaga injected stalwarts Jerome Kaino and Charlie Faumuina in the second half in an attempt to compensate for Luatua's absence but it didn't go to plan.

Chiefs openside Lachlan Boshier and in-form winger James Lowe scored tries within 10 minutes of the restart before Anton Lienert-Brown finished off a team move.

On the precipice of a thumping, the Blues rallied with a man less and used their Test muscle to score through Patrick Tuipulotu, Faumuina and Rene Ranger.

But it was too little too late for the Auckland-based side, who will now wait nervously for the judiciary's Luatua verdict.

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