Chiefs upset 'Canes in Wellington
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Chiefs recorded a hard-fought 17-14 win over the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday.
It was the Hurricanes' first home defeat of the season Friday in a frantically paced New Zealand derby.
The Hurricanes starting XV had six players named in the All Blacks' squad to play the British and Irish Lions while the Chiefs had five, providing ample motivation for those looking to secure a Test berth.
It was end-to-end rugby, with both sides chancing their arm and throwing the ball around, although the expected try-fest did not eventuate due to some ferocious defence.
The intensity of the match underscored the task facing the Lions, who are yet to face both teams and fell to a 16-22 defeat this week to the Blues, the worst of New Zealand's five Super Rugby franchises this season.
But the Chiefs' win may have come at a cost for the All Blacks after flyhalf Aaron Cruden did not emerge for the second half following a knock to the knee.
With the unbeaten Crusaders set to take top spot in the New Zealand conference, the fixture was essentially a battle for second, which guarantees fifth place overall on the Super Rugby ladder.
The Hurricanes, on 54, retain a one-point lead over the Chiefs.
The reward for coming fifth is likely to be a play-off match against the Brumbies in Canberra, rather than a draining trip to meet the Stormers in Cape Town.
The Hurricanes opened the scoring after five minutes when lock Vaea Fifita crossed the line after scooping up Thomas Perenara's pass.
Perenara and newly minted All Black Jordie Barrett then combined for a try-saving defensive effort on their own line to deny the Chiefs.
The Waikato team hit back when a stray kick from Hurricanes flyhalf Beauden Barrett sparked an attack that resulted in a try for his opposite number Cruden.
Cruden came close to a second but was brought down by Vince Aso just short of the line, injuring his knee.
With the scores locked at 7-7, McKenzie squandered the chance to put the Chiefs ahead when he hooked a straightforward penalty attempt.
The Chiefs appeared to be in trouble when lock Michael Allardice was sinbinned for foul play, but wing James Lowe scored against the run of play after a fine break from Cruden's replacement Shaun Stevenson.
McKenzie's penalty provided enough of a buffer for the Chiefs to stay ahead even after Jordie and Beauden Barrett unlocked their defence to put Wes Goosen over.
Man of the match: Lock Vaea Fifita was outstanding for the Hurricanes, while Ardie Savea also had a few good carries. Wing James Lowe was elusive with ball in hand for the Chiefs and he scored the game's crucial try. However, the award goes to centre Anton Lienert-Brown, who tormented the Hurricanes' defence. He was also solid on defence as well.
Tries: Fifita, Goosen
Cons: J Barrett 2
Tries: Cruden, Lowe
Cons: McKenzie 2
Yellow card: Michael Allardice (Chiefs, 60 - foul play, dangerous charge)
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Thomas Perenara (captain), 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Vaea Fifita, 4 Sam Lousi, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Leni Apisai, 1 Chris Eves
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Loni Uhila, 18 Mike Kainga, 19 James Blackwell, 20 Reed Prinsep, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Matt Proctor, 23 Wes Goosen
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie. 14 Solomon Alaimalo, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden ,9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane , 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames
Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Tom Sanders, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Alex Nankivell, 23 Shaun Stevenson
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Richard Kelly (New Zealand), Cam Stone (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)