Chiefs win Perth arm-wrestle
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Chiefs were made to work harder than they wanted to for a 16-7 win over the Western Force in Perth on Saturday.
The teams scored one try each, but three Aaron Cruden penalties sealed the win for the Chiefs - keeping them firmly in the play-off race.
In winning the Chiefs stretched New Zealand teams' dominance over Australian opposition to 14-0 in this season's Super Rugby.
The Force, with their future Super Rugby participation under major threat over SANZAAR restructuring for the 2018 season, never gave the Chiefs a moment's peace and kept them under the shackles.
The Chiefs finished off a gruelling tour where they split their two games in South Africa against the Western Stormers and Central Cheetahs.
The Chiefs remain in third spot three points behind the Crusaders in the New Zealand conference after seven wins from eight games.
"I was proud of the way the boys were able to dig in in that second 40 minutes and grind it out," Cruden said.
"We knew that the Force coming off a bye and obviously everything they are going through would show an immense passion and pride and that's certainly what they did."
The Force's Parent body, RugbyWA, has launched legal action against the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) in a bid to keep threatened franchise afloat as the axe hovers over the Perth-based outfit.
Super Rugby's governing body SANZAAR announced earlier this month that two South African teams and one from Australia would be axed from 2018, streamlining the 18-team competition to a three-conference 15-team format.
Both tries were scored in the first half with Liam Messam plunging over in the eighth minute and Force skipper Matt Hodgson scoring off the back of a rolling maul from a lineout win.
The Force suffered an injury setback midway through the opening half to their Wallaby back Dane Haylett-Petty, who came off with a damaged right hamstring.
The Chiefs have now won nine of their 11 meetings with the Force, but both of their losses have come in Perth.
Man of the match: Matt Hodgson scrapped hard and, as always, was The Force's most productive player. Damian McKenzie had his moments, Sam Cane was busy and Brodie Retallick was monstrous in the tight exchanges. Our award goes to Chiefs flyhalf Aaron Cruden, who changed his tactics when it was required to take control. He also kicked three crucial penalties.
For the Western Force:
For the Chiefs:
Pens: Cruden 3
Western Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Curtis Rona, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Luke Morahan, 10 Luke Burton, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Richard Hardwick, 7 Matt Hodgson (captain), 6 Isi Naisarani, 5 Ross Haylett-Petty, 4 Lewis Carmichael, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Francois Van Wyk, 18 Pek Cowan, 19 Onehunga Havilli, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Mitch Short, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Alex Newsome.
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Sam McNicol, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Sosefo Kautai, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Stephen Donald, 23 Toni Pulu.
Referee: Nicholas Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: William Houston (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)