It was just 8-0 at halftime, and 11-0 at 43 minutes, when Brazier put in a pinpoint grubber for Ruby Tui to slide over, and later she did another for Hazel Tubic to cross. The final margin, even wider than the 39-12 score from their historic first clash in 2021, blew out as the Manawa, who had the edge most of the contest, were able to drive home their numerical advantage. Both Blues starting props – Aldora Itunu and Krystal Murray – were binned at almost the same time, and they lost another to a late yellow card.
While there was a late flourish by the Manawa, in truth the match was a real arm-wrestle, and the breakdown tussle was nothing short of rugged.
The Blues welcomed back captain Aroha Savage, at No 8, to big-time rugby, while Eloise Blackwell was used off the pine. Stacey Fluhler made her first appearance of the competition at centre for the Manawa, though she had few clear opportunities.
Manawa hooker Luka Connor continued her strong form with an early try from a lineout drive. The home team’s set-piece dominance was a real feature of their rugby.
The Blues, conversely, were heavily penalised and got little of the attacking flow, which was so evident in Tuesday’s win over Matatū, going.
Despite the rain, there was more open rugby in the second spell, and the Chiefs pressure started to tell. Portia Woodman showed glimpses of her 2017 form with some slicing runs and she finished a try off an inside ball from Chelsea Semple, who now has household bragging rights over husband and Blues assistant James Semple.
The fifth and final try went to Langi Veainu, set up by Fluhler.
Whilst the Blues will be unhappy at the blowout, they did compete strongly for more than half the match. We always knew the Manawa had a cutting edge and X-factor and that came through in the last quarter.
Their best were captain Les Elder, Connor, Brazier, Woodman and the immovable object in the scrum, Tanya Kalounivale. There was steady improvement over the three matches and the Chiefs Manawa, the clear favourites, lived up to their billing in the final analysis.
Chiefs Manawa 35 (Luka Connor, Ruby Tui, Hazel Tubic, Portia Woodman, Langi Veainu tries; Kelly Brazier 2 con, 2 pen) Blues 0 HT: 8-0 Chiefs Manawa