Blues break 21-year Super Rugby drought after Caleb Clarke final hat-trick sinks Chiefs

Caleb Clarke of the Blues scores a try during the Super Rugby Pacific final match. Picture: Michael Bradley / AFP

Caleb Clarke of the Blues scores a try during the Super Rugby Pacific final match. Picture: Michael Bradley / AFP

Published Jun 22, 2024


Caleb Clarke scored a hat-trick as the Blues crushed the 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 in 2021 during a reduced competition due to the pandemic.

Trailing 20-3 at halftime, the Chiefs were effectively shut out as the Blues nullified the influence of game-breaking 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.

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, whose 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.

— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) June 22, 2024

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

It was a second straight final defeat for the Chiefs, who went down to the Crusaders in Hamilton last year.

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

The Blues' victory ends the title 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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