Rugby: Chiefs seeking answers in attack

By Kris Shannon

Tom Marshall of the Chiefs runs the ball during the round five Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Stormers at Waikato Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.
Tom Marshall of the Chiefs runs the ball during the round five Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Stormers at Waikato Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.

The Chiefs have stripped bare their slumping attack in search of more excitement against the Lions this weekend.

While they have only one win from their last six games, the Chiefs' lack of potency can particularly be traced to the previous three weeks, with both tries and scoring considerably below their season rate.

The defending champions notched more than four tries a game in their first six fixtures, good for an average of 27.8 points. Those numbers have dropped since returning from Africa, crossing for a total of four tries in three games while averaging 20.7 points.

That the power outage has come in Aaron Cruden's absence is no coincidence. But with their injured pivot's help from the sidelines of the training paddock, the Chiefs' attack is aiming to bust out of its rut on Saturday.

"It's been a tough couple of weeks,'' Tom Marshall said. "So this week we've stripped everything bare and cleared out the closet.

"We want to get back to playing good Chiefs footy and try to bring a little bit more excitement and enjoyment. It's been a really good start to the week so far.''

If that positivity from practice can translate to Waikato Stadium, the Lions could be in for a long night. Then again, with Cruden still missing due to an injured thumb, the onus is on Gareth Anscombe and co to click as a backline for the first time since the second half of their draw in Bloemfontein.

The Auckland first-five has proven a capable deputy but, as Marshall acknowledged, the team appeared to lack direction at times without the talismanic Cruden.

"Aaron's a huge loss, he was always going to be,'' Marshall said. "He's a big part of this team as a director - he really calls the shots. But he's there during trainings and he's always putting in his input, which has been great. And Gareth's really stepping up.''

After Anscombe moved into the No 10 jersey, Marshall has enjoyed a run of three straight starts in his favoured fullback position, but the former Crusader was welcoming the return to fitness of the likes of Charlie Ngatai and James Lowe.

"I've wanted to get back to the back there and I've managed to get a spot and have a couple of games,'' he said. "But we've got a lot of players coming back, so there's going to be some good competition for places.''

- APNZ

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