Gatland off to winining Super Rugby start

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland made a winning return in Super Rugby Friday when he guided the Chiefs to a 37-29 win over the Blues in the opening match of the 2020 season.

Gatland, a former All Blacks hooker, who was one of the most-capped players for the Chiefs' home province Waikato, hasn't been involved in Super Rugby since 2007 when he was a technical adviser to the Chiefs.

For the past 13 years he has been head coach of Wales and coach of the Lions 2013.

The Chiefs didn't see the lead until the 68th minute on Friday when winger Solomon Alaimalo scored a brilliant try in the left corner.

Former All Blacks flyhalf Aaron Cruden, who hasn't played in New Zealand since 2017 when he took up a contract with Montpelier in France, came off the bench to make that try and to kick three conversions, a penalty and a dropped goal to help the Chiefs overcome a 19-5 halftime deficit.

The highly-rated Blues dominated the first half with two tries from winger Reiko Ioane, who played with energy after losing his All Blacks spot in 2019.

The Blues got on top of the Chiefs at scrums and that translated to superiority at the breakdown and around the field.

But the Blues typically fell flat in the second half. When the Chiefs asserted themselves with the help of two tries to hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho, the Blues had no answer and began to make mistakes that caused their game to fall apart.

There was great interest in the style the Chiefs would adopt under Gatland, who has a reputation in the northern hemisphere for pursuing a one-dimensional coaching style. But Gatland didn't make any attempt to cramp the Chiefs' natural attacking style and that showed in the second half when they scored two superb breakout tries.

"To be honest we weren't great in the first half, we were pretty average," Gatland said. "I think for us the first three games are vital.

"The Crusaders next week at home is a major game for us, then we're on the road to the Sunwolves. If we get off to a good start and win these first three games it will put us right in this competition."