Clarke: Bench did the job for us
Clarke: Bench did the job for usSHARE
Departing Chiefs captain Craig Clarke paid tribute to the bench players, following their 27-22 triumph over the Brumbies on Saturday.
The Chiefs came from behind, having trailed 12-22 with less than 20 minutes to go, to claim their second successive Super Rugby crown.
Before a packed crowd of 25,000 at Waikato Stadium, the Chiefs outscored the Brumbies two tries to one.
It also brought to and end the Chiefs careers of five players.
Co-captain Clarke (off to Ireland), prop Toby Smith (Melbourne Rebels) and wing Lelia Masaga (Japan) featured in Saturday's victory.
Injured centre Richard Kahui (Japan) and another All Black, scrumhalf Brendon Leonard (Italy), had already played their last game after lengthy stints at Waikato and the Chiefs.
Clarke described the Brumbies as an "awesome" team that showed a "huge amount of heart".
"They really put us under pressure," Clarke said in his post-match analysis, before paying tribute to his own team for their effort to come back in the final quarter.
"They are a special group," the captain said, adding: "We got fantastic impact off the bench.
"That was the key for us.
"We got a lot of guys on the bench, where there are not much difference between them and the starters.
"They did a great job for us and in the end that was probably the difference."
Describing this year's Final as "more nerve-wracking" than the first championship win last year, he added that they knew they had another in them.
"We knew the Brumbies are a quality side and they showed that at Loftus last week," where the Australian franchise came from behind to beat the Bulls in the semifinal.
"We needed to be able to dictate the tempo of that last period and we did it pretty well.
"It is a tough and long tournament and you have to be consistent. That [being consistent] gave us the opportunity to play [the Final] at home and that helped us."
Asked about his departure, along with four other players, Clarke described it as a "strange feeling".
"I have been doing the same thing for the past five years, doing the Naki thing [playing for Taranaki] and doing the Chiefs thing," the skipper said.
"I sort of fitted into a good rhythm there, but it is going to be a completely different experience. I have definitely enjoyed what we are doing here.
"I have been through some lows and some highs over the last couple of years, I really appreciate the success that we are having.
"However, that is how it is in rugby, people go off and do different things.
"We'll just go off to a new challenge."