Rieko Ioane made his case for All Blacks selection for the British and Irish Lions Tests as the Auckland Blues and Waikato Chiefs fought to a frustrating 16-16 Super Rugby draw on Friday.
The Blues wing profited from a trademark offload from Sonny Bill Williams – who is also trying to state his All Blacks claims – to score the opening try in Auckland.
Damian McKenzie and Johnny Faauli scored tries for the Chiefs in a draw that did not help either side in the New Zealand conference.
The Chiefs are likely to slip further behind the Canterbury Crusaders and Wellington Hurricanes, while the Blues' season is all but over.
In a match which started in fine weather and ended in pouring rain, the Blues had a chance to snap the deadlock with a penalty eight minutes from full time.
But Northampton-bound flyhalf Piers Francis, who has been called into the England squad for their tour of Argentina, missed what should have been a routine kick.
The Chiefs had banked on a win to continue putting pressure on the Crusaders, while the Blues needed maximum points to keep alive their slim mathematical hopes of making the top eight.
The Blues have not beaten a New Zealand side since they downed the Otago Highlanders in round one last year and they have not won against the Chiefs, their nearest neighbours, in 12 matches dating back to 2011.
'Wee bit fortunate'
"We did enough to win. Piers had that opportunity with that kick at the end but it wasn't to be. But a draw is better than a loss," Blues captain James Parsons said.
"But, we've got to get better at finishing these New Zealand derbies."
Chiefs skipper Sam Cane agreed with Parsons that it was an unsatisfactory outcome.
"A draw's supposed to make you feel good but talking to both of us you probably wouldn't know that. To be completely honest we (the Chiefs) were probably a wee bit fortunate."
Hanging over the heads of all the New Zealand sides is the Lions Test series next month, with the All Blacks squad yet to be finalised.
Several players on both sides needed big performances to prove they remain frontline Test material, and it was 20-year-old Ioane who put his hand up highest.
He was constantly looking for work and was rewarded with the opening try when he was on hand to finish a move sparked by Williams' offload.
Where the Chiefs excelled was from regaining possession at the kick-off.
The first time, after Ioane's try, led to repeated attacks on the Blues line before the Chiefs undid their good work by giving away a penalty.
But the second time, after a Francis penalty, Brodie Retallick recovered the kick-off and the Chiefs went wide for McKenzie to scamper 40 metres to score.
Francis kicked three penalties for the Blues and converted Ioane's try while the Chiefs points came from the tries to McKenzie and Faauli, with McKenzie and Aaron Cruden both kicking penalties.