Cape Town - The Chiefs extended their lead at the top of the New Zealand
Conference after finishing on top in a classic battle with the Hurricanes,
winning 28-27 in Wellington on Saturday.
The lead changed hands constantly throughout the 80 minutes
at Westpac Stadium as both sides finished with four tries each, but the goal-kicking
of Beauden Barrett proved to be crucial.
Striking an early drop goal, Barrett missed several kicks
off the tee, five in total, although his all-round play was superb, including
right at the death when his break gave the Hurricanes a chance to win it.
Jason Woodward however couldn't haul in the pass with the
line at his mercy as the Chiefs clung on, despite their scrum taking a
Seta Tamanivalu's first-half brace was matched by tries for
Cory Jane and Dane Coles, with Michael Leitch and Taleni Seu the scorers for
the Chiefs after the break countered by scores from TJ Perenara and Barrett.
The key however was the goal-kicking of Damien McKenzie, the
in-form full-back landing four brilliant conversions to ultimately settle the
Barrett's clean break set up the opening try, as he sliced
through a gap and found the veteran winger Jane to finish in the corner.
A contentious response followed from the Chiefs, with
Tamanivalu doing brilliantly to beat his man on a charge to the line, but he
appeared to lose control of the ball with the grounding. However after
extensive replays the score was given, McKenzie converting to put the Chiefs
A well-taken drop goal from Barrett swung the lead back the
way of the Hurricanes in an entertaining start.
Westpac's tricky wind conspired to make Barrett miss
consecutive penalty attempts and after surviving that tricky spell the Chiefs
were back up the other end of the field.
Toni Pulu showed good speed and strength to hold off the
Hurricanes defence and within inches of the line he flicked an offload out the
back for Tamanivalu to grab his second try. McKenzie, with the assist of
Mitchell Graham, overcame the wind to land the conversion from out wide, making
Naturally the lead swung again, Coles hammering his way over
from close range with Barrett converting to put the Hurricanes ahead by one.
Complete dominance at the scrum meant the Hurricanes were
enjoying a comfortable platform, but a bad miss from Barrett on the stroke of
half-time prevented them from extending their lead, settling for a 15-14
advantage at the break.
An unbelievable four-minute passage of play straight from
the restart was eventually halted by a try for Leitch, the Japan star crashing
over under the posts to put the Chiefs back in front with their third try.
You knew it wouldn't last long with Coles, having a special
game, putting in a thundering hit on Sam McNicol before the playing his part
with a fine offload to release TJ Perenara for a cracking try. Barrett's
kicking woes continued, missing his sixth kick off the tee.
The magic wasn't over, McKenzie's slight of hand setting up
another chance which was finished off by Taleni Seu, the fullback then
crucially adding the conversion to make it 28-20.
That gap beyond a converted try left the Hurricanes chasing
the game and they turned to Barrett for inspiration. The All Black's brilliant
offload to Michael Fatialofa was then returned to him with Barrett stepping on
the gas to score.
Jason Woodward's conversion after taking over the kicking
duties to cut the gap to one again, but because of a combination of injuries
and replacements the Chiefs were forced to finish with 14 men.
The deficit in personnel threatened to cost the Chiefs and
Barrett so nearly made them pay, another superb burst of speed seeing him break
the defensive line once more, but Woodward couldn't catch what appeared a
regulation pass to hand the Chiefs another win.
Tries: Cory Jane, Dane Coles, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett
Conversions: Beauden Barrett, Jason Woodward
Drop goal: Barrett
Tries: Seta Tamanivalu, Seta Tamanivalu, Michael Leitch, Taleni Seu
Conversion: Damian McKenzie (4)
15 Jason Woodward, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Vince Aso, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Blade Thomson, 3 Jeff To'omaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Red Goodes
Substitutes: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Loni Uhila, 19 Vaea Fifita, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Willis Halaholo, 23 James Marshall
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Andrew Horrell, 11 Sam McNicol, 10 Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Allardice, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Mitchell Graham
Substitutes: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Maama Vaipulu, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Stephen Donald, 23 Glen Fisiiahi