The Chiefs remain in the running for a play-off place following their 24-16 win over the Hurricanes in Hamilton on Friday. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
The two-time defending champions have laboured through the 2014 season and came into this one having lost five of their last seven matches. This form had left them at the foot of the New Zealand conference and ninth overall, and their lack of confidence showed early on.
Their scrum was wobbly, while they displayed a hesitancy to run the ball back at the Hurricanes defence, opting instead for some dubious tactical kicking. It all added up to a very dull opening quarter. The intensity was high from both sides, but so were the amount of errors.
Aaron Cruden would eventually open the scoring after 20 minutes with a penalty before Beauden Barrett responded with a long-range attempt of his own. It would be the Chiefs who would grab the initiative, though, after Cruden decided against another shot at goal and instead knocked the ball into the corner. The Hurricanes managed to fend off the rolling maul but from the resulting play Jamie Mackintosh snuck his way over the tryline to give the Chiefs some breathing room, with the hosts leading 16-6 at the break.
The Hurricanes narrowed the gap early in the second half through the boot of Barrett, but were left frustrated by the Chiefs' line speed on defence and their ability at the breakdown. The Chiefs went on to grab their second try following a sweeping move that was finished off by Brodie Retallick.
The Canes would get just reward for their perseverance with a try of their own, but remained eight points behind as the clock wound down. Barrett missed a late penalty to take them within seven and earn what may yet prove to be a valuable bonus point.
The Chiefs will have one final chance to save their season against the Blues in Auckland next weekend, while the Hurricanes will need results to go their way if they are to remain in the competition.
Chiefs – Tries: Jamie Mackintosh, Brodie Retallick. Conversions: Aaron Cruden. Penalties: Cruden (4)
Hurricanes – Tries: Hadleigh Parks. Conversions: Beauden Barrett. Penalties: Barrett (3)
Chiefs – 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Subs: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Nick Barrett, 19 Matt Symons, 20 Tevita Koloamatangi, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Bundee Aki.
Hurricanes – 15 Matt Proctor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Brad Shields, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Jack Lam, 5 Blade Thomson, 4 Jeremy Thrush (c), 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Reggie Goodes, 19 James Broadhurst, 20 Adam Hill, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Cardiff Vaega, 23 James Marshall.
Photo: Jason Oxenham/Getty Images