Five second-half tries
The defending champion Chiefs showed their true ability as they demolished the Cheetahs 45-3 in their Super Rugby encounter in Hamilton on Saturday.
Overcoming a spirited first half from the visitors, the Chiefs scored five second half tries to go to the top of the New Zealand conference and second overall - with only the Brumbies' bye points keeping them ahead of the New Zealand outfit.
A score of 45-3 looks like a hiding. It was in fact a hiding. Unfair to the Cheetahs? Not at all. It's hard to blame the travelling, the weather, lady luck and the referee if you play so poorly.
In the first half the Cheetahs dominated possession and had 79 percent of territory without ever looking like scoring a try. They missed three penalty kicks at goal and were down 3-10 after all that. In the second half they did not have 79 percent of territory and a dominance of possession, and they certainly did not look like scoring a try as the Chiefs gave them a lesson on how it should be done, running in five tries in the half.
It's not enough just to pass the ball. Catching and passing are skills but so is it a skill to fix, as the French say, your immediate opponents. When the Cheetahs went in for their unvarying chain passing across the field, the Chiefs were able to jog across in leisurely fashion on untroubled defence.
When the Chiefs had the ball they varied their attack. One try from a line-out was a splendid example as Aaron Cruden did a run-around and then a switch with Gareth Anscombe who ran 50 metres and scored. The Cheetahs had no such weapon of mass deception.
When it came to tackling, the Cheetahs used only their arms. The law says you must use your arms in a tackle and not only a shoulder but if you use your arms your are allowed to use your shoulder. The Chiefs drove in with the shoulder while the Cheetahs used just their arms.
The Cheetahs did well at line-outs but the Chiefs did well at turnovers. Turnovers are of greater value than line-outs.
In the first half the Chiefs were penalised seven times - every time at a tackle while the Cheetahs were penalised only once at a tackle. In all the penalty count at the tackle was 10-2 against the Chiefs. There may have been a case for sterner action.
The Cheetahs actually scored first. Johan Goosen, who had missed two kicks against the Sharks the previous week and his first kick this evening, goaled a straightforward kick when Augustine Pulu was penalised at a tackle. 3-0 after 14 minutes but then Frans Viljoen went offside and Anscombe goaled his first kick., His kicking on the perfect Waikato evening was impeccable. 3-3 after 17 minutes.
Goosen had an excellent break off a clever pass by Trevor Nyakane but Raymond Rule could not hold a difficult pass. It was the Cheetahs' best chance to score a try in the match.
The Cheetahs were penalised will inside the Cheetahs' half. The Cheetahs tapped and Philip van der Walt was knocked into touch soon after. From the line-out the Chiefs attacked for the first time in the match. A penalty gave them a five-metre line-out and they bashed again with Pulu close. Then Liam Messam burst for the line and scored as two Cheetahs attempted to stop him. 10-3 after 25 minutes. That was the score at half-time as Goosen missed and easy kick and then a long one.
Things went wrong for the Cheetahs from the start of the second half. Brodie Retallick charged down a simple clearing kick by Goosen, knocking the ball sideways. It was rolling towards touch when prop Ben Afeaki picked it up and scored right in the corner. 17-3 after 42 minutes.
For the next 20 minutes there was no scoring as the Chiefs' handling let them down and the Cheetahs did their chain passing.
But the Chiefs got on the attack. Cruden did a dummy and slipped a short pass to Asaeli Tikoirotuma who had a short run to score. 24-3 after 64 minutes, and the Cheetahs capitulated.
Cruden and Anscombe made a fool of Johann Sadie and Anscombe scored. 31-3 after 68 minutes.
Sadie carried over a kick by Cruden and from the five-metre scrum the Chiefs bashed. Tawera Kerr-Barlow, a scrumhalf substitute, tapped a penalty and substitute hooker, 20-year-old Rhys Marshall, scored. 38-3 with seven minutes to play.
From an attacking line-out the Chiefs forced tackles until Ben Tameifuna slammed the ball down for the final try. 45-3 with less than a minute to play.
Man of the Match: All manner of Chiefs, including our choice the man with the infallible boot, Gareth Anscombe who created so much and scored 20 points.
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Messam, Afeaki, Tikoirotuma, Anscombe, Marshall, Tameifuna
Cons: Anscombe 6
For the Cheetahs:
Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (captain), 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Craig Clarke, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21 Charlie Ngatai, 22 Patrick Osborne.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Frans Viljoen, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Rynhard Landman, 19 Johannes Prinsloo, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Riaan Smith, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)