Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Chiefs live up to increasing hype

Sonny Bill Williams was a constant threat. Photo / Getty Images
Sonny Bill Williams was a constant threat. Photo / Getty Images

Chiefs 33 Hurricanes 14

There's no stopping the Chiefs it seems and absolutely no stopping Sona Taumalolo.

These are unknown times for the Chiefs - a winning run that is in no rush to come to an end. The hype builds and the interest mounts, but the Chiefs don't waver in their mission. They are hot property but they play like they don't believe they are.

Coming home from a successful trip to Africa and sitting proudly on top of the New Zealand conference, there was ample potential for the Chiefs to sit back and believe it would all happen for them last night.

The danger was always present that they might forget to build the platform: showboat early because they wrongly thought they had earned the right.

That's not the way this Chiefs side operates. There are too many wise heads in the coaching staff and too many unassuming characters on the field. What impressed most about the Chiefs was the methodical way they built the victory.

The lineout functioned, the scrum held and numbers flew into the breakdown. They protected the ball, went for territory when they had nothing else on and didn't get over excited or over do their pick and go.

It was a performance that screamed balance and composure and a result that says the Chiefs aren't ready to dramatically implode.

There were also promising signs that their attacking game is coming to life. Aaron Cruden scampered about the place - mainly into gaping holes and he had an innate sense of when to use Sonny Bill Williams as a dummy runner and when to let the big man loose.

And of course there was Taumalolo - the smiling devil who can burrow and bash through impenetrable defensive walls. It was his try midway through the second half that effectively buried the Hurricanes.

It was his seventh campaign try and a critical one in the context of the game.

The Hurricanes weren't out of contention until then and they were moving the ball and finding space as only they can. They were not quite finding the parity up front as usual, but that didn't matter. They do the hit-and-run better than any other side in the competition, as was demonstrated when they scored the opening try after half an hour.

Andre Taylor added yet more weight to an already compelling case for All Black inclusion. Comparisons with Christian Cullen are now inevitable as Taylor has that same dash and glide mechanism to carry him past the first defender and the swerve at top speed feature that made Cullen almost unstoppable.

So many times this season Taylor has been the catalyst to bring the Hurricanes into the game. He was again last night when he scored the opening try.

It was his late burst of pace that saw him brush off Aaron Cruden and once he was in the open, Andrew Horrell had no hope. Taylor dummied and coasted and made the whole business look ludicrously easy and with one magical burst, the Hurricanes had hope. Up until then they'd been hanging on a bit.

They didn't have any legal answers to stop the Chiefs' pick and go work. As the Chiefs launched wave after wave of effective attacks, it seemed a question of when, not if the Hurricanes' dam would burst.

They were conceding breakdown penalties to escape but that was only going to be effective for so long. Either Cruden would kick them out of the game as a result, or the yellow cards would start coming.

Taylor's try provided a reminder that the Hurricanes are expert at what was once dubbed the 'rope-a-dope'. They absorb an obscene amount of pressure, never let the opposition get out of sight and respond with deadly counter thrusts.

Half-time was a welcome break for the Chiefs to take some of the sting out of the rejuvenated Hurricanes and to sit down and remind themselves that they had to find a clinical edge in the red zone because the Hurricanes were frighteningly capable of jumping the scoreboard in multiples of five or seven.

Chiefs 33 (L. Masaga, S. Taumalolo, T. Smith tries; A. Cruden 3 cons, 4 pens) Hurricanes 14 (A. Taylor try; B. Barrett 3 pens)

- Herald on Sunday

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