Barrett gives Blues breathing room to beat Chiefs

Reuters
FILE PHOTO: Italy v New Zealand
FILE PHOTO: Italy v New Zealand

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Beauden Barrett slotted a drop goal shortly after he moved into flyhalf to spark a final quarter resurgence by the Auckland Blues that carried them to a 24-12 win over the Waikato Chiefs in New Zealand's Super Rugby Aotearoa competition on Saturday.

Barrett, who started the game at fullback, replaced Otere Black in the pivotal position with about 20 minutes remaining and put over the drop goal four minutes later to give his side a 16-12 lead.

He then added a 69th minute penalty and winger Mark Telea finished off the best movement of the match three minutes after that to cap the 11-point burst that gave the Blues enough room to clinch victory.

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Damian McKenzie slotted four penalties for the Chiefs.

The Blues had not won in Hamilton since 2011 and have now won their last six games, including a 30-20 victory over the Wellington Hurricanes in their first game of the new competition last week.

The constant rain swirling around Waikato Stadium and players still struggling with stricter rule interpretations by the referees ensured the game never really rose to a level of spectacle for the crowd of more than 20,000.

Both sides struggled with their handling, while referee Ben O'Keeffe was forced to issue more than 20 penalties, which led the players to get increasingly frustrated as the game wore on.

O'Keeffe also issued a yellow card to Blues loose forward Dalton Papali'i on the stroke of halftime, while he had to issue the Chiefs with a team warning as the penalties mounted in the second half.

Super Rugby Aotearoa was the first professional rugby union competition to resume following the COVID-19 shutdowns and involves just the five New Zealand teams.



(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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