Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Chiefs continue winning ways while Crusaders get into gear

Tawera Kerr-Barlow hands off Dale Chadwick of the Sharks during the 2012 Super Rugby match between The Sharks and Chiefs. Photo / Getty Images.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow hands off Dale Chadwick of the Sharks during the 2012 Super Rugby match between The Sharks and Chiefs. Photo / Getty Images.

Chiefs co-captain Craig Clarke talked of his relief after his side extended their winning streak to seven games by beating the Sharks 18-12 in Durban this morning.

That brief comment as much as anything shows the changed mindset and the altered expectations at the franchise.

Gone is the inconsistency which prevailed under former coach Ian Foster. In its place under the new direction of Dave Rennie and Wayne Smith is an almost uncanny ability to win games despite not playing particularly well.

The Chiefs had every right not to win this match at Kings Park. They had already won two of their three matches on tour, against the Force and Lions, and although the Sharks had made the long haul back to South Africa after their victory over the Blues, it seemed Rennie's men were ripe for the plucking.

Instead, the Chiefs took control and never let the Sharks take the lead, with substitute halfback Augustine Pulu's opportunist try when tiptoeing down the sideline after the final hooter sealing it for the visitors, who lead the competition.

"It's very satisfying to have a tour when you win three from three," Clarke said. "It doesn't happen very often."

Keeping the Sharks try-less in Durban is a feat in itself, with the Chiefs' defence their best attribute. Their backs weren't up to their usual high standards - Sonny Bill Williams' handling was poor, Richard Kahui was bothered by a cut head and a broken nose and Lelia Masaga left the field with concussion in the second half after a nasty head clash with opposite Lwazi Mvovo.

Their forwards were better - their props Sona Taumalolo and Ben Tameifuna mixing impressive scrummaging with even better handling - and No 8 Alex Bradley stood out with his strong ball carrying.

Their option-taking perplexed - up 10-9 with 23 minutes to go, they elected to run the ball instead of taking an easy shot at goal, but while quieter than in previous weeks, Aaron Cruden again ran the ship well at first-five.

It was his nicely-worked try in the first half which gave the Chiefs the lead, which he extended with a penalty, and the Sharks could reply only with a penalty to Patrick Lambie.

Though they pressed in the second half, the Sharks couldn't find a way through.

That could worry the Hurricanes as they prepare for their meeting in Hamilton on Saturday night following a 42-14 thrashing at the hands of the Crusaders in Wellington.

They were unfortunate to lose wings Cory Jane and Julian Savea on the day of the game through an ankle injury and illness respectively, but they didn't help themselves with their poor kicking, especially in the first half.

Israel Dagg showed he is coming into form with two tries, with Zac Guildford looking sharp too. Dan Carter celebrated his 100th game for the franchise with a first-half try as the Crusaders took a 32-7 to the break.

"I look back a month ago and we were frustrated because we just weren't getting the performances and the performances weren't good enough to win those big games," coach Todd Blackadder said afterwards of the Crusaders who overtook the Hurricanes to go third on the New Zealand conference table.

"There's been a lot of hard work, a lot of persistence and we're getting the rewards. Our guys are ready to launch."

The Highlanders got back on track following a loss and a bye to beat the Blues 30-27 in Dunedin. Pat Lam's men had several chances to draw the match at the end but turned down kickable penalties.

Mike Delany marked his return to New Zealand rugby with a good performance at first-five for the Highlanders, kicking 20 points and setting up his side's first try to Shaun Treeby.

The Bulls held out the Brumbies 36-34 in Pretoria, a remarkable result given the South Africans led 33-13 at one point. The Brumbies refused to give up, however, and outscored the Bulls five tries to two, Morne Steyn's goalkicking again proving the difference with eight from 10 attempts.

The defending champion Reds's season continues to nosedive. They lost 23-13 to the Stormers plus two players to injury in Brisbane, with first-five Sam Lane undergoing his second knee reconstruction in a year and centre Ben Tapuai facing 10 weeks out with a broken collarbone.

The Waratahs scored a bonus point when beating the Rebels 30-21 in Sydney.

- APNZ

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 27 Nov 2014 20:17:54 Processing Time: 450ms