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The champions' 'trademark'

Sat, 04 Aug 2012 11:11
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We have got a heap of pride in our defence
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The Chiefs' first Super Rugby title was built on what their captain Craig Clarke describes as their "trademark" defensive commitment.

The Waikato side may have scored four tries in their comprehensive 37-6 victory over the Sharks in the Final on Saturday, but those opportunities were created through the immense pressure they generated through their enthusiastic defensive system.

The home side harassed the Sharks in the collisions and forced them to play off the back foot by disrupting their momentum in a similar fashion to the way they shut the Crusaders down in their semifinal last week.

Clarke said that their aggression and speed off the line had been key to establishing dominance over a Sharks side that have proven character having won two play-off matches away from home.

After taking a 13-3 lead into the half-time break the Chiefs turned the screws on the travel-weary visitors who simply had no reply for their power and accuracy in the tackle.

"The second half showed our trademeark line-speed that we showed last week and the boys were up and getting in their faces. We have got a heap of pride in our defence and we talked about not letting them over for any tries," said Clarke.

The Chiefs skipper said that after a slow start which saw the Sharks enjoy the ascendency without building up a lead, his team found their rhythm and took control of the game in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

"We were a little bit slow out of the blocks, I guess we were coming off a physical game last week but when we got into our work we managed to find our feet," he said.

The Sharks may have had the odds stacked against them after a gruelling campaign, but in truth the Chiefs had earned their advantages through their consistent performances this season which saw them top the New Zealand conference.

The victory will be particularly sweet for coach Dave Rennie who lifts the trophy after his first season in charge, and Clarke admitted that he could not quite believe what they have achieved in such a short space of time.

"It is sort of surreal - a bit like last week - but we are certainly very chuffed," he said.

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