Chiefs hold off desperate Canes
Chiefs hold off desperate CanesSHARE
The Chiefs beat the Hurricanes 24-16 in Hamilton on Friday to keep their slim hopes of making the play-offs and defending their Super Rugby title alive.
The home side scored one try in each half to hold off the challenge of a desperate Hurricanes side that threw everything at them but ultimately came up short of securing even a bonus point.
The Chiefs, champions in the last two seasons, started the match in ninth place and rose to seventh with their two-tries-to-one win.
The Hurricanes stayed in fifth place but their chances of reaching the play-offs are now slight as they have a bye in next weekend's final round.
The Chiefs showed the benefit of their play-offs experience, playing intelligent rugby in what was effectively a knock-out match.
They commanded possession and territory in the first half, mostly keeping the ball in hand and using strong ball-carriers such as lock Mike Fitzgerald and loose forward Liam Squire to attack the gainline.
When they went to the backs they moved the ball quickly wide, and ran strongly, stretching the Hurricanes defence, which missed eight tackles in the first half. The Chiefs had a decisive 61 percent of territory and 63 percent of possession before half-time.
"The effort's been there all year but we probably haven't put that onto the paddock," Cruden said. "It was good to see it tonight.
"There were a lot of motivating factors. Obviously, our season was on the line and we wanted to come here with our last home game at Waikato Stadium, and put in a performance our fans could be proud of.
"We wanted to get back to what we do best which is up the guts, then chuck it wide, and it worked for us tonight. There were a few doubters out there coming into the match and I guess a bit of fear among ourselves, but through fear comes courage, and the boys showed a lot of that."
The Chiefs built a 16-6 lead at half-time which was indicative of their superiority.
Cruden kicked three penalties and converted a 28th-minute try to prop Jamie Mackintosh. The Chiefs gambled by passing up a penalty kick in favor of a line-out, mauled the ball to the goal-line then drove over from an ensuing scrum.
Cruden then provided the vital link in a short-side move which led to Retallick's try in the 59th minute. He twisted through several tackles before providing the last pass to the All Blacks lock, who crashed onto the ball at pace.
Barrett kicked three penalties and the conversion of a 64th-minute try to centre Hadleigh Parkes. His first penalty carried him past 200 points for the season, making him the 11th player and the fourth from New Zealand to reach that milestone.
"There was enough effort and passion but we just didn't keep our heads and execute our skills very well," Hurricanes captain Jeremy Thrush said. "We won our set-piece pretty well but we just didn't hold onto the ball through phases and put them under pressure."
The Hurricanes must nervously await results over the next two weekends to discover whether they can yet sneak into the play-offs. If not, it will be the fourth time they have missed the post-season under coach Mark Hammett, who leaves at the end of the season to join the Cardiff Blues.
Man of the match: The Chiefs pack laid the platform for the victory, with Brodie Retallick, Ben Tameifuna and Mahonri Schwalger all helping flyhalf Aaron Cruden who controlled the game well. But the stand-out performer was hard-working flank Tanerau Latimer who posed a threat both at the breakdown and with ball in hand.
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Mackintosh, Retallick
Pens: Cruden 4
For the Hurricanes:
Pens: Barrett 3
Chiefs: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Nick Barrett, 19 Matt Symons 20 Tevita Koloamatangi, 21 Agustine Pulu, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Bundee Aki.
Hurricanes: 15 Matt Proctor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Brad Shields, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Jack Lam, 5 Blade Thomson, 4 Jeremy Thrush (captain), 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Reggie Goodes, 19 James Broadhurst, 20 Adam Hill, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Cardiff Vaega, 23 James Marshall.
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Brendan Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)