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Chiefs charge to Super glory

Sat, 04 Aug 2012 09:25
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It is a massive margin of victory in a Final - second only, ironically, to the Chiefs' loss in 2009 when the Bulls beat them 61-17 in Pretoria
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The Chiefs claimed their first Super Rugby title with a resounding 37-6 victory over the Sharks in Hamilton on Saturday.

The Chiefs rule. They deserve their big victory in the Final to the delight of 25 000 people who packed their Hamilton ground. They deserve their first Super Rugby title. Four tries to nil tells most of the story.

It is a massive margin of victory in a Final - second only, ironically, to the Chiefs' loss in 2009 when the Bulls beat them 61-17 in Pretoria.

There are no miracles, it seems, at least not in rugby. This was just too much for the Sharks. They crossed the Indian Ocean and the width of  Australia three times in 19 days plus other journeys while the Chiefs nestled at home. The Sharks played three matches in that time, all miles apart, the Chiefs two, both at home. For 12 minutes or so, the Sharks were good and even dominant but then their chances frizzled away - try as they may. How they managed to be there at all is a story of heroism.

The Chiefs won the match and every bit of the match that counted. The scrummed better, tackled better and controlled the post -tackle better, they kicked better and handled better, they attacked better and defended better. They were just more intent than the Sharks were. As the Sharks were last Saturday, so the Chiefs were this Saturday, only more so.

And how they enjoyed it and how they deserved to enjoy it after riding at the top of Super Rugby for most of the season. They made history for themselves at Waikato Stadium on a wet Saturday night. When the Sharks knocked on to end the game, the Chiefs whooped and hugged and the crowd whooped and hugged with them. It was good to be a Mooloo person. The victory will stay forever a fact of history.

Bismarck du Plessis led the Sharks out for his 100th Super Rugby match. There were frightening Maori warriors with weapons and then there were fireworks as the rain came down. Mercifully the rain gave up as the match went on.

The Chiefs did the first bit of attacking when Robbie Robinson kicked a wide diagonal to the right and Tim Nanai-Williams flykicked on, but Lwazi Mvovo saved for the Sharks. Then JP Pietersen kicked a long kick downfield which rolled out just before the Chiefs' cornerpost. Ryan Kankowski won the Chiefs' throw and the Sharks bashed till Kane Thompson was penalised for being offside, giving Frédéric Michalak and easy kick at goal. 3-0 after 6 minutes.

Clever Aaron Cruden chipped, Patrick Lambie knocked on,  Sonny Bill Williams was forceful and Nanai-Williams beat Jannie du Plessis and, stretching, scored as Keegan Daniel and Marcell Coetzee tackled him. 7-3 to the Chiefs after 20 minutes. The next hour was spent building on that lead.

At this stage the Sharks were already looking rattled. Their tackling became less aggressive and then less sure, their handling wobbled and they looked rattled. They failed to kick a penalty out but twice kicked out on the full when they had taken the ball back into the 22.

The Chiefs won a line-out and mauled. The Sharks were penalised  and Cruden goaled. 10-3 after 24 minutes.

The penalty was not obvious though Chiefs' tactics at line-outs on Sharks' throws were dubious, to be kind.

Paul Jordaan, the youngest of the Sharks and the freshest of their backs, having had a lay-off and a sojourn at home while his teammates were battling, had a great run down the right, beating five Chiefs before he stumbled to ground.

After the Sharks complained, the Chiefs were penalised at a Sharks' line-out but Mahonri Schwalger bashed Jannie du Plessis on the nose. The prop pushed back at the Chief and the penalty was not only reversed, but also goaled by Cruden. 13-3, which was the half-time score.

Twice in this half the Chiefs were penalised for playing the man without the ball - Schwalger first, then Messam. The referee spoke to them for grabbing opponents near to the tackle/ruck to prevent them from defending. They gained from this early in the second half.

The Chiefs put pressure on the Shark's scrum and Clarke charged down Michalak's kick to win a five-metre scrum. Kane Thompson broke on the left of the scrum through a wide gap and scored near the posts. The wide gap. it seemed, was there because Tanerau Latimer was holding onto Daniel to prevent him from plugging the gap. 20-3 after 45 minutes.

As the game went on the Chiefs pressure on the Sharks - so filled with determination - increased and the Sharks bungled more. They could not cope with the numbers of energetic men the Chiefs had in tackles, for one thing, nor with the speed that they sped up on defence.

Cruden, in his own 22, chipped but was then penalised at a tackle and Michalak made it 20-6 after 51 minutes.

Then Sonny Bill Williams sailed into Daniel who lost the ball. Andrew Horrell flicked it to  Lelia Masaga, who had just come on for Nanai-Williams. Masaga raced down, beat the covering Lambie with an in-out and scored. 27-6. The winner of the 2012 Final was obvious.

The Chiefs grew in confidence and enjoyment of what they were doing. The Sharks attacked through phases but knocked on and the Chiefs were back on the attack. They eschewed a kick at goal in favour of a five-metre line-out but the Sharks repelled them. Jean Deysel was penalised at a tackle and this time Cruden made it 30-6.

Right from the kick-off Liam Messam dummied and broke inside Jacques Botes He raced down the field and the Sharks were scrambling in defence. Botes won a turnover five metres from their line and they survived.

The Sharks had a scrum but Meyer Bosman knocked on for a Chiefs scrum. They bashed on the left and then went wide right where Sonny Bill Williams sailed through a wide gap to score. He then danced over the deadball line to hug spectators and be hugged by them. 37-6 with two minutes to play.

There was a scrum, the siren sounded, the Sharks knocked on and the final whistle sounded - a signal of tumultuous rejoicing in Hamilton on the North Island of New Zealand. It was an historic victory.

Man of the Match: All the candidates are Chiefs and the greatest of them, our Man of the Match, was flank Liam Messam for his allround performance, constructive for his own side, and destructive of Sharks' efforts.

Moment of the Match: Lelia Masaga's try - the vigour of Sonny Bill's tackle, the clever Andrew Horrell flick and Masaga's clever running.

Villain of the Match: Ben Tameifuna for his mad, high tackle on Ryan Kankowski ,which went unpenalised and unnoticed though it happened near the assistant referee.

The scorers:

For the Chiefs:
Tries: Nanai-Williams, Thompson, Masaga, Williams
Cons: Cruden 4
Pens: Cruden 3

For the Sharks:
Pens: Michalak 2

The teams:

Chiefs: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6  Liam Messam, 5  Brodie Retallick, 4  Craig Clarke (captain), 3  Ben Tameifuna, 2  Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Ben Afeaki, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Lelia Masaga.

Sharks: 15 Patrick Lambie, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Paul Jordaan, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Keegan Daniel (captain), 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Steven Sykes, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Riaan Viljoen.

Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa, Keith Brown (New Zealand)
TMO: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)

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