Blues crush Chiefs 41-10 to win Super Rugby final

The Blues celebrate winning the Super Rugby Pacific Grand Final match between the Blues and Chiefs at Eden Park in Auckland on June 22, 2024. AFP

Caleb Clarke scored a hat-trick as the Auckland Blues crushed the Waikato Chiefs 41-10 on Saturday to win their first full Super Rugby title since 2003.

The ruthless home side had too much muscle in wet conditions at Eden Park, scoring five tries to triumph in the final in style.

The Blues had won a Super Rugby Trans-Tasman crown in 2021 during a reduced competition because of the pandemic.

Trailing 20-3 at halftime, the Chiefs were effectively shut out as the Blues nullified the influence of fly-half Damian McKenzie.

The damp conditions suited the Blues pack, whose effective style under new coach Vern Cotter has proved difficult to contain in winning 15 of 17 games this season.

Blues fly-half Harry Plummer landed all seven shots at goal in a 16-point haul as the Blues notched a 16th successive win at Eden Park.

Plummer said the Blues had been overdue a title.

“We’ve failed in the last couple of years at the last hurdles,” Plummer said.

“I’m just happy we did it for all the boys before us because I know they’ll be watching and they deserve this success as well.

“We played how we wanted to. We had a game plan and the boys fronted up. That’s Blues rugby and that’s rugby under Vern Cotter.”

Home captain Patrick Tuipulotu was an inspiration at lock, playing just two weeks after suffering knee ligament damage in the quarter-finals.

Tuipulotu and several of his team-mates put themselves firmly in contention for inclusion in the All Blacks squad named Monday for the two home Tests against England next month.

Among them was Clarke, who crossed three times after flanker Akira Ioane had grabbed an early try to mark his final game for the Blues before taking up a Japanese club contract.

Clarke’s first try came from a brilliant display of skill from the Ioane brothers, with Rieko and Akira both miraculously keeping the ball alive when they had appeared to be tackled into touch.

The Chiefs’ hopes sunk when prop George Dyer was shown a yellow card because of his team’s persistent offending soon after the interval.

Clarke bagged his third soon afterwards off a long pass from scrum-half Finlay Christie.

Midfield back AJ Lam scored their final try, after replacement forward Simon Parker had bagged a consolation five-pointer for the Chiefs.

Chiefs captain Luke Jacobson conceded his team were outplayed after losing a second successive final, having gone down to the Crusaders in Hamilton last year.

“The Blues set it up right from the get-go tonight and made it very tough for us,’ Jacobson said.

“We couldn’t get the job done but we’ve got a really tight culture and we’ll be back again.”

Their two only titles came back-to-back in 2012 and 2013 under Dave Rennie.

The Blues’ victory ends the reign of the Canterbury Crusaders, who had won the previous seven straight titles but failed to reach even the knock-out phase this year.

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