Chiefs see off Canes to go top
Chiefs see off Canes to go topSHARE
The Chiefs earned a tough 34-22 bonus-point victory over a willing Hurricanes side in Hamilton on Friday to go to the top of the Super Rugby standings.
Although the final score suggests a fairly comfortable victory, the Hurricanes were right in the match until the final quarter thanks to a spirited first-half display which saw both sides play some expansive rugby.
The Chiefs managed to pull away in the final stages, ending the Hurricanes' hopes of qualifying for the play-offs this season, but they by no means had everything their own way in a pulsating New Zealand derby.
The visitors took the game to the Chiefs from the outset, but the home team's aggressive defensive system stood up well and the Hurricanes were driven back into their own territory where Karl Lowe gave away an early penalty at scrum-time.
Aaron Cruden knocked the kick over to grab the lead, but the Hurricanes hit back in fine style. Captain Conrad Smith put a big hit on Cruden in the Hurricanes 22 to secure the turnover and from there they showed great patience to work themselves into the strike zone.
A pinpoint cross-kick from Beauden Barrett found Jeremy Thrush just short of the line, and eventually it was scrumhalf TJ Perenara who forced his way over from close range for the opening try to put the Hurricanes 7-3 ahead.
The breathless start continued when Chiefs wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma claimed the restart to take the ball deep into the Hurricanes 22. Outgoing captain Craig Clarke stole a crucial line-out on the tryline, and the ball was flicked out to hard-working No.8 Matt Vant Leven who crashed over for the try.
A knock-on at the base of a ruck from Perenara gave the Chiefs another great opportunity from the scrum on the Hurricanes 22, and they took it well with Cruden putting in a well-weighted blindside grubber for inside centre Bundee Aki who slid over for the try to stretch the lead to 17-7.
However, the Hurricanes were not going to let the home side off the hook that easily, and they responded immediately with another determined foray into the Chiefs 22. This time it was the impressive Barrett who deservingly crashed over for the try after some superb work to put his team in an attacking position.
A Barrett penalty shortly afterwards narrowed the gap to 17-15, which was the score at the end of a highly entertaining first half which saw both teams show plenty of attacking intent.
The Hurricanes made a bright start to the second half, pinning the Chiefs deep in their own half, but they absorbed the pressure well and were first to strike after half-time when Cruden slotted a penalty following a powerful scrum on the Hurricanes tryline.
The Chiefs were gaining some momentum as holes started appearing in the Hurricanes defence, and scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow was on hand to go over for their third try which extended the lead to 27-15.
The home side pressed hard in the dying stages in search of the bonus point, and it was big tighthead prop Ben Tameifuna who burrowed his way over to put them two points clear of the Brumbies at the top of the standings.
The Hurricanes refused to give in and there was time for one last try when replacement wing Alapati Leiua broke through to score, which left the visitors in search of a late bonus point, but it was not to be and they walked away empty-handed despite giving a good account of themselves.
Man of the match: Both flyhalves showed some great touches in a classic battle, but Chiefs playmaker Aaron Cruden takes our award for having a greater influence on the end result.
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Vant Leven, Aki, Kerr-Barlow, Tameifuna
Cons: Cruden 4
Pens: Cruden 2
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: Perenara, Barrett, Leiua
Cons: Barrett 2
Chiefs: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Matt Vant Leven, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (captain), 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Andrew Horrell, 22 Charlie Ngatai.
Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Reynold Lee-Lo, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Karl Lowe, 6 Brad Shields, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben May, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Reggie Goodes, 18 Mark Reddish, 19 Faifili Levave/Blade Thomson, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Tusi Pisi, 22 Alapati Leiua.
Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Richard Kelly (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)