Chiefs overhaul willing Highlanders
Sat, 01 Mar 2014 08:17
Defending champions notched their second consecutive victory of the season
The Chiefs were forced to come from behind to edge a willing Highlanders side 21-19 in a thrilling encounter in Hamilton on Saturday.
The defending champions notched their second consecutive victory of the season, but they were forced to work hard for it by a committed Highlanders side that will have to be content with a single bonus point.
The Highlanders were playing into the wind in the first half and they took the game to the Chiefs, with flyhalf Lima Sopoaga slotting a penalty to give them the early lead.
However, the first try was scored by the home side as some slick hands put Tim Nanai-Williams in some space on the outside, and he did not need a second invitation to race over to give his team the lead.
The Highlanders responded with another penalty from Sopoaga to cut the gap to 7-6 as the game opened up considerably with both teams creating good attacking opportunities.
Despite all the running the next try came from a driving maul as Highlanders flank John Hardie ploughed over from a line-out in the Chiefs 22.
Sopoaga nailed the conversion and followed that up with another penalty when Mils Muliaina was blown up for obstruction to give the visitors a handy 16-7 lead that they would take into the half-time break.
The Chiefs started the second half with purpose as they looked to fight their way back and it was Liam Messam who forced his way over to cut the Highlanders' advantage to 16-14.
That gave the home side some crucial momentum, as they started testing the Highlanders defence, but the visitors held firm and were able to add to their lead through another Sopoaga penalty just short of the hour mark.
That stung the Chiefs into action as they charged into the 22, and despite some resolute defending from the Highlanders centre Charlie Ngatai eventually got over for a try in the corner after an explosive break from replacement Liam Squire.
Cruden's conversion gave the home side a 21-19 lead with just ten minutes to play, and although the Highlanders threw everything at them in the final exchanges they could not find a way through as the home team hung on for a tough victory.
Man of the match: Highlanders centre Shaun Treeby was very impressive and Chiefs wing Tim Nanai-Williams looked a threat whenever he got the ball but our award goes to the hard-working Liam Messam who led by example.
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Nanai-Williams, Messam, Ngatai
Cons: Cruden 3
For the Highlanders:
Pens: Sopoaga 4
Chiefs: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden (captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Nick Crosswell, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Tevita Koloamatangi, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Brad Webber, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 James Lowe.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Malakai Fekitoa, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (co-captain), 7 John Hardie, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Craig Millar, 19 Josh Bekhuis, 20 Shane Christie, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Trent Renata, 23 Phil Burleigh.
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson, (New Zealand) Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
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