Cape Town - The Chiefs consolidated
their lead at the top of the Super Rugby ladder on Friday, dashing the Highlanders' hopes of a play-off spot with a 27-21 win in Dunedin.
the first match back after a three-week break for international
fixtures, both sides scored two tries apiece but five penalties to Aaron
Cruden proved the difference in a tightly contested New Zealand derby.
win puts the Chiefs in prime position to top the New Zealand
conference, although they face a tough final two regular season matches
against the Crusaders and Hurricanes.
Highlanders entered the match eighth on the ladder and, barring major
upsets, have no chance of achieving a top six play-off position.
"It's not easy to get a win down in Dunedin," Chiefs captain Craig Clarke said.
pleased me the most was probably the heart of our defence towards the
end when they were chasing the game, we just stayed in there and made
The Chiefs stunned the Highlanders with a try in
the opening two minutes, Liam Messam intercepting a pass and sending
Sonny Bill Williams down the field, with Tim Nanai Williams touching
down for the five pointer.
Cruden converted but the Highlanders,
their season on the line, continued to attack, earning two penalties to
one to narrow the gap to 10-6 after 20 minutes.
dominated possession but only managed to secure a penalty before
conceding against the run of play three minutes before half-time after a
charge down by Ben Tameifuna led to a Robbie Robinson try.
Cruden piled on the pressure with a penalty after the half-time siren, then another just after the restart to make it 21-9.
hosts made the most of an attacking opportunity when Sonny Bill
Williams was penalised for a shoulder charge, rewarded when they opted
to run the ball and hooker Andrew Hore forced the ball over from a ruck.
Chiefs responded with a period of sustained attack but had a try
disallowed when the ball was ruled held up over the line, only for the
Highlanders' Adam Thomson to concede a penalty and make it 24-14.
Gear managed a try for the Highlanders three minutes from time but the
Chiefs defence proved up to the task of keeping them out.Teams:
15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Tim Boys, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Nick Crosswell, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Jason Rutledge, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (captain)
Substitutes: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Chris King, 18 Josh Bekhuis, 19 James Haskell, 20 Jimmy Cowan, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Buxton Popoali'i.Chiefs:
15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (captain), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Toby Smith
Substitutes: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Sona Taumalolo, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Andrew Horrell, 22 Lelia Masaga