The Blues kept their Super Rugby Aotearoa title hopes alive after repelling the struggling Chiefs for a much-needed 21-17 victory on Sunday.

All Blacks star Beauden Barrett impressed in his first start at five-eighth as the Blues withstood a Chiefs challenge to emerge triumphant in Auckland.

Following back-to-back defeats, the Blues returned to winning ways in front of more than 33,000 fans at Eden Park – the Auckland team now only two points adrift of leaders the Crusaders after six games.

The Chiefs fell to a franchise record seventh consecutive loss after almost snatching a last-gasp victory away to the Blues, who prevailed thanks to some desperate defending and a relieving penalty.

It was a bruising encounter after tries from Matt Duffie and captain Patrick Tuipulotu helped the Blues to a 14-0 lead inside 15 minutes.

The Chiefs responded by dominating the remainder of the first half, but they only had Lachlan Boshier's try and seven points to show for it by the interval.

An early seven-pointer from Solomon Alaimalo levelled the game in the second half, and a Damian McKenzie penalty put the Chiefs ahead shortly after.

But the Blues regained the lead a quarter of an hour in when Finlay Christie crossed over as the hosts held on for their fourth win of the campaign.

Beauden Barrett's return to the Hurricanes did not go to plan as brother Jordie nailed a late conversion to sink the Blues 29-27 in a Super Rugby Aotearoa thriller.

The return of Beauden Barrett to Wellington dominated the pre-match narrative and he was beaten by Ngani Laumape for a superb opening score for the Canes.

New Zealand's star fly-half responded with the Blues' first try and Dalton Papali'I also crossed for the visitors, but 15 unanswered points – with Reed Prinsep and Dane Coles dotting down – had the Canes 22-15 ahead.

The momentum swung again as Akira Ioane and Kurt Eklund scored tries to put the Blues ahead going into the final 10 minutes.

However, the drama was not finished and Asafo Aumua went over out wide to leave Jordie Barrett a tough conversion attempt, which he brilliantly stuck through the posts to settle a breathless encounter.

The Canes are now third in the table having won three of their five matches, one place and one point behind the Blues.

All Blacks star Beauden Barrett has signed with Japanese side Suntory Sungoliath and will miss next year's Super Rugby season.

Barrett, 29, signed a four-year deal with New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the Blues in 2019, but will head to Japan in 2021 before returning for the international season.

The star playmaker will play under Kiwi coach Milton Haig, while England head coach Eddie Jones is a consultant for Suntory Sungoliath.

"For me it made sense to go next year and then have two years back with the Blues and hopefully the All Blacks in the lead up to the Rugby World Cup," Barrett said.

"My wife and I are excited to head to Japan next year. It is an appealing place for a young family and comparatively safe in health terms.

"The Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa competition has been an amazing experience. It's been brutal and demanding which is what you expect when New Zealand teams play each other.

"I'm loving every minute of it and having such big crowds turning out has been fantastic. I am loving the move to the Blues and we still have a job to do this season. It is an excellent environment with great coaching and an awesome bunch of dedicated players.

"While the excitement about heading to Japan will build closer to the time, I'll also be looking forward to being back later in 2021 and then into the 2022 Blues season."

All Blacks Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock have had similar agreements to play in Japan this year.

Blues head coach Leon MacDonald said he was planning for next year without Barrett.

"Our focus is fully on the current campaign but we have plans for next year without Beaudy," he said.

"He will be a big loss but that is countered with what he is doing on and off the field this year, and that we get him for two more years.

"We have Otere Black playing terrific rugby, and Harry Plummer who has been coming off the bench, while we will have Stephen Perofeta back next season from injury."

Beauden Barrett helped the Blues shift through the gears and shake off the Chiefs in a 24-12 Super Rugby Aotearoa triumph - their first in Hamilton since 2011.

The Blues scored the only try of the first half, Hoskins Sotutu burrowing over after his fellow forwards laid siege to the Chiefs line.

That score was largely against the run of the opening 40 minutes, with Damian McKenzie's unerring boot keeping the Chiefs in touch as their opponents' penalty count mounted.

Goalkicker Otere Black made way for the Blues after the hour, allowing Barrett to move forward to fly-half.

The switch paid instant dividends as the All Blacks superstar landed a 64th-minute drop goal. Five minutes later, his penalty opened up a seven-point advantage.

The Blues did not look back from that point and Mark Telea finished brilliantly in the corner to make the game safe.

Barrett was unable to add the extras from the touchline but his influence had already proved decisive in securing a franchise record fifth consecutive win away from home.

Beauden Barrett revelled in a "celebration of rugby" as he made a winning start to his Blues career against his former team the Hurricanes at a packed Eden Park on Sunday.

Barrett had a long time to wait for his Blues bow, but the two-time World Rugby player of the year started at full-back in a 30-20 triumph over the franchise he left to move to Auckland.

A sell-out crowd of 43,000 in New Zealand witnessed the eagerly-awaited match on the first weekend of the Super Rugby Aotearoa.

Barrett was relieved to make his first appearance for Leon MacDonald's side in a tournament that was arranged after the regular Super Rugby season could not be completed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: "It's good to get it done and out of the way.

"Obviously there was that emotional hurdle to get over playing against all my mates, as well as starting a new chapter in my career. Very proud of the start and the effort from our boys tonight."

He added: "It was about rugby being back and about everyone coming together to support this team… just a celebration of rugby.

"It's fantastic to be back playing and to see the support. We were absolutely blown away by the support. Hopefully we can get that again when we're back in a couple of weeks."

Barrett managed to see the funny side when his former team-mates got him in the middle of their celebrations for a Dan Coles try, which he could not prevent with a saving tackle.

"That just happened in slow motion," a laughing Barrett said.

"It was almost like it was meant to be, so fair play to him. He's [Coles] pretty good in the wide channels, so a guy like him should be able to finish against someone like me."

Tries from Caleb Clarke, TJ Faiane and Dalton Papali'i and 15 points from the boot of Otere Black proved enough for the Blues to secure victory.

Dan Carter must wait for his Blues debut after missing out on the squad to face the Hurricanes – but Beauden Barrett says the All Blacks great is already making a huge impact.

At the age of 38, Carter has been tempted back into Super Rugby by the Auckland-based Blues.

Their apparent marriage of convenience came about as Carter was living close to the Blues' training headquarters, with rugby union's all-time highest international points scorer looking for a challenge.

Blues head coach Leon MacDonald has suggested Carter will have an important role in helping to mentor the emerging generation, but he may also contribute on the pitch.

Former Crusaders star Carter is working on his sharpness and could be involved in first XV duties in the coming weeks.

Ahead of the team's Eden Park opener on Sunday in the Super Rugby Aotearoa, Barrett told radio station Newstalk ZB: "He's been such a steady and experienced voice.

"The first day I was training out there, I was training alongside him and he was giving me instant feedback which is so good. It's what I need to get better. It's what we all need to get better."

Barrett is a two-time world player of the year, while Carter has taken that award three times, and although both operate at fly-half by trade, McDonald could find space for the duo in his team in future weeks.

Crowds are being allowed into stadiums for the tournament, which is being limited to New Zealand teams, with over 34,000 tickets sold for the clash in Auckland.

Carter might put more numbers on the gate once he makes his entrance later in the competition.

"He's still a few weeks away from being match fit," Barrett said. "But just his presence, his experience. He's almost a player-coach."

Dan Carter decided he needed another rugby fix while locked down during the coronavirus pandemic but said joining the Blues was still "a tough decision".

The New Zealand great has joined the Auckland outfit for the Super Rugby Aotearoa, a domestic alternative to the Super Rugby season that could not be finished due to the COVID-19 crisis.

At the age of 38, three-time World Rugby player of the year Carter admits it will take him some time to get up to speed, but he hopes to make an impact with the team.

He previously played 13 seasons with the Crusaders, before heading overseas for lucrative spells with Racing 92 and Kobelco Steelers, having also had a brief earlier stint at Perpignan.

Carter, the all-time leading points-scorer in international rugby, is relishing teaming up with Blues head coach Leon MacDonald and a new set of players.

He told the Blues website: "Two things from the lockdown that I realised was that I really enjoyed spending more time with my family and that I miss rugby.

"Leon is a good mate and we spoke about me helping out. For me, it is a chance to mentor some young players and to give back to New Zealand Rugby.

"I have not played for several months so it will take me a little bit of time to get game-ready.

"It's an exciting opportunity to train in the same city that my kids go to school in and my family are currently living. It will also be nice to share my experience with some of the young talent they have here at the Blues."

In a separate Instagram note, Carter said he was "back doing what I love".

"When Leon called me with an opportunity to join the Blues squad as a replacement player, it was a tough decision," he added.

The Blues open their Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign against the Hurricanes at Eden Park in Auckland on June 14, and it remains to be seen whether Carter is ready to start that game.

He comes into the squad as a replacement for utility back Stephen Perofeta, who is sidelined with a broken foot.

MacDonald could include Carter in the same team as Beauden Barrett, a two-time world player of the year, but the coach is being cautious.

What is clear is that Carter is unlikely to feature in an accustomed fly-half role, but he could find a place elsewhere within the backs.

"We have two designated 10s in Beauden and Otere [Black], and Dan will be there to help them and our other young backs," MacDonald said.

"If he gets back into playing form that warrants selection, then he could help us as a utility back in midfield or fullback.

"For Dan, it is not about the money. He is here as a favour, with a desire to give back to the sport. We are only a few minutes from his home so it works out perfectly for everyone and we are thrilled."

Beauden Barrett would welcome the appointment of Ian Foster as head coach to provide "continuity" for New Zealand.

Steve Hansen's trophy-laden reign came to an end after the All Blacks failed to win an unprecedented third successive Rugby World Cup.

Assistant coach Foster is reportedly among the leading contenders to step up and replace Hansen.

Two-time World Rugby Player of the Year Barrett believes Foster fits the bill for the top job.

"He's a very intelligent coach. A great team man and hopefully we can have some continuity going forward," he told the New Zealand Herald.

"Steve's legacy is a very strong one. His win percentage speaks for itself. I think the biggest thing with Steve is the way he makes his players feel. Trust and confidence.

"We know he 100 per cent has our back. As a player that's all you can really ask for. He's taught me a lot along the way and I'm very lucky for that."

Barrett says New Zealand were happy to see South Africa lift the Webb Ellis Cup on Saturday with a defeat of an England side that dethroned them at the semi-final stage.

"To be fair we were probably supporting them. It's nice to see a Southern Hemisphere team and players that we are so familiar with and have friendships with lift the trophy," he added.

"If it couldn't be us, we were encouraging them to win."

South Africa were crowned champions of the world with the best player on the planet this weekend but not even Pieter-Steph du Toit could make the Opta team of the Rugby World Cup.

The Springboks overpowered England at International Stadium Yokohama on Saturday and lifted the Webb Ellis Cup for a third time after a commanding 32-12 victory.

Outstanding lock Du Toit was crowned World Rugby Player of the Year the following day and Rassie Erasmus was named the top coach in the world at a ceremony in Tokyo.

Yet there were no Springboks in the Opta team of the tournament, with Japan's South Africa-born back-row Pieter Labuschagne in at number seven ahead of Du Toit.

There were four New Zealand players and as many from the host nation Japan in the Opta XV.

Players had to have been on the field for at least 320 minutes, or 240 for props, to be eligible for selection, with tries, carries, metres carried, offloads, turnovers assists and tackle success contributing to earn points.

New Zealand playmaker Beauden Barrett, twice named the best player in the world, claimed the most points in the competition.

 

Opta's Rugby World Cup team of the tournament: Beauden Barrett (New Zealand), Kotaro Matsushima (Japan), Manu Tuilagi (England), Anton Lienert-Brown (New Zealand), Semi Radradra (Fiji), Richie Mo'unga (New Zealand), Gareth Davies (Wales); Joe Moody (New Zealand), Shota Horie (Japan), Kyle Sinckler (England), Maro Itoje (England), Kane Le'aupepe (Samoa), Chris Vui (Samoa), Pieter Labuschagne (Japan), Kazuki Himeno (Japan).

Ben Smith marked his swansong with a double as New Zealand ended the Steve Hansen era by hammering Wales 40-17 in an entertaining Rugby World Cup third-place play-off.

The All Blacks had been licking their wounds since England shattered their bid to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for an unprecedented third successive time last weekend and responded like champions at Tokyo Stadium on Friday.

Smith, recalled for one final Test before joining Top 14 side Pau, touched down twice in a frantic first half following scores from Joe Moody and Beauden Barrett as the All Blacks turned on the style.

Ryan Crotty, also donning the famous jersey for the last time along with legendary captain Kieran Read, crossed following the interval after the lively Smith had a third ruled out.

Richie Mo'unga claimed New Zealand's sixth try of the night late on to take his points tally to 13 and Read was inspirational in his farewell Test as the two-time defending champions fittingly finished Hansen's glorious reign with a victory

Hallam Amos crossed in the first half and Josh Adams took his tournament-leading try-scoring tally to seven, but the clinical All Blacks sealed a 31rd win in a row over injury-hit Wales in Warren Gatland's last game in charge.

The holders had no answer to a blistering start from England last weekend, but they began on the front foot six days later and Moody took a one-handed pass from a charging Brodie Retallick to go over five minutes in.

Barrett sprinted under the posts all too easily after Aaron Smith's no-look pass left a sluggish Wales defence flat-footed and Mo'unga ​– who missed an early penalty – converted for the second time.

Wales clicked into a gear and Amos showed a sharp turn of foot to finish superbly after a sustained spell of pressure and a Rhys Patchell penalty reduced the deficit to four points.

The Grand Slam winners continued to look vulnerable at the other end, though, and Ben Smith burst down the middle and somehow evaded three tackles and dot down.

The 33-year-old flyer finished clinically again on the stroke of half-time after taking an exceptional whipped pass from his mercurial namesake Aaron, Mo'unga adding the extras expertly from the touchline.

Sonny Bill Williams, also playing what is expected to be his last match for his country, set up the onrushing Crotty for a fifth All Blacks try after Ben Smith was denied a hat-trick due to a knock-on.

The lively Adams dived over from close range at the other end after captain Alun Wyn Jones came off to a standing ovation in what is almost certainly his final World Cup appearance.

New Zealand were not at their fluent best in the second half, but Mo'unga had the final say by crashing over four minutes from time to round off an emphatic win.

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