Scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow was at his sniping best as he scored a try and constantly tested the defensive line as the Waikato Chiefs used a blistering first half to beat the Auckland Blues 29-14 in their Super Rugby clash in Hamilton yesterday.
Undaunted by driving rain, Kerr-Barlow was given an easy ride by his pack, who cleared out the breakdown and provided him with a superb attacking platform to unleash his backline.
The home side, who let the Otago Highlanders pinch a 23-19 victory last week, put the game beyond doubt in the first half when prop Sona Taumalolo, wingers Asaeli Tikoirotuma and Tim Nanai-Williams, and Kerr-Barlow all scored tries as the hosts blasted the Blues off the park.
Flyhalf Aaron Cruden was also deadly accurate with his boot, slotting three conversions and a penalty, while his Blues opposite Michael Hobbs was successful with two penalties as the Chiefs went into the break with a 29-6 lead.
“It was one of those halves of footy where everything went right, everything seemed to stick and it was pretty expansive for a wet weather game,” Chiefs captain Craig Clarke said. “We just had to stick to it in the second half.”
The Blues were more organized and held onto the ball in the second half, but were stymied by a blistering defensive line from the Chiefs as they fell to their second straight defeat in a disappointing start to the season.
Hobbs added a penalty for Auckland to reduce the deficit with 25 minutes remaining, but neither side was able to trouble the scoreboard again until Blues replacement Sherwin Stowers scored a consolation try with three minutes left.
Meanwhile, the New South Wales Waratahs produced a controlled performance yesterday to secure a bonus point and overcome an error-prone Melbourne Rebels 35-19 in a niggly clash that resulted in several off-the-ball scuffles.
The Waratahs dominated the first 55 minutes to establish a 23-point lead, then seemed to lower their intensity, allowing the Rebels to gain some momentum that was halted once Daniel Halangahu kicked a 70th-minute penalty.
Inside center Tom Carter scored two tries and tighthead prop Sekope Kepu notched his first Super Rugby try for the Waratahs, while flyhalf Halangahu added two conversions and fullback Bernard Foley slotted a penalty.
Wallabies utility back James O’Connor kicked two penalties in the first spell as the Waratahs went into the break with a handy 22-6 lead.
Foley secured the Waratahs a bonus point when he crossed after another sustained build-up from the New South Wales side, who then seemed to switch off after establishing the 29-6 lead.
O’Connor added two more penalties and the Rebels forwards milked a penalty try, which also resulted in Waratahs’ hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau being yellow carded.
Halangahu, who had kicked an earlier second-half penalty before the Rebels’ try, slotted another with 10 minutes remaining.