Seta Tamanivalu scored a brace of tries as the Chiefs recorded a 28-27 win over the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The Chiefs have extended their lead at the top of the Australasian conference and reaffirmed their status as real title contenders this year. It was also only their second win in 11 matches against the Hurricanes away from home.
In the end it was the goal-kicking of Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie that essentially separated the sides, with the former missing three penalties and two conversions, while the Chiefs fullback slotted all four of his conversions.
Both teams came into the match on the back of five successive wins, and it was expected to be a cracker of a clash. And while there was no shortage of errors, there were also plenty of entertainment and drama as the two sides unsurprisingly demonstrated their willingness to keep the ball in hand.
In a scintillating start to the clash, Barrett exposed disorganisation in the Chiefs defence to put Cory Jane away in the corner, but the visitors hit back almost immediately as Tamanivalu was awarded a somewhat contentious try in the 11th minute.
The highly entertaining encounter continued to ebb and flow, with Tamanivalu finishing off a superb 90m Chiefs breakout try just after the quarter-hour mark, although this time it was the turn of the Canes to respond. Captain Dane Coles powered over to restore a one-point lead for the hosts, and while Barrett had an opportunity to extend that advantage with a penalty just before the break, the kick sailed wide.
With a gusty wind playing havoc with Barrett’s goal-kicking, 11 points went amiss from the kicking tee, and there’s no doubt the Canes would have feared this coming back to haunt them in the second stanza.
Those fears would have resonated around the Westpac Stadium when the Chiefs made the perfect start to the second half as No 8 Michael Leitch scored under the posts, but not even two minutes later, Jane and Coles then combined to send scrumhalf TJ Perenara over for their third try.
The Chiefs retained the lead, though, as Barrett missed his fifth kick of the night, and the visitors quickly stretched that advantage as replacement Taleni Seu went over to score in the 50th minute, while McKenzie kept on knocking over his kicks at goal.
With the Chiefs hanging on to an eight-point lead heading into the final quarter, the pressure began to tell on the Canes as errors blighted their efforts to get back into the game, with their ball security at the lineout particularly leaving a lot to be desired.
Something special was required for the Hurricanes to launch their comeback, and it came from Barrett as he both created and scored a superbly worked try to reduce the deficit to one point with 10 minutes left to play.
Further drama then ensued as the Chiefs were forced to play the final few minutes with 14 men as a result of injuries to their front rowers that forced the scrums to be uncontested. Nevertheless, the Chiefs were able to hold on for a crucial victory despite their one-man disadvantage, with Canes fullback Jason Woodward butchering a surefire try with seconds remaining on the clock.
Hurricanes – Tries: Cory Jane, Dane Coles, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett. Conversion: Barrett, Jason Woodward. Drop goal: Barrett.
Chiefs – Tries: Seta Tamanivalu (2), Michael Leitch, Taleni Seu. Conversions: Damian McKenzie (4).
Hurricanes – 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 (c), 1 Red Goodes.
Subs: 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.
Chiefs – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Sam McNicol, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Allardice, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Rhys Marshall, Mitchell Graham.
Subs: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Maama Vaipulu, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Glen Fisiiahi.
Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images