It was touch and go if Hawke's Bay and Chiefs rugby prop Sona Taumalolo would play in tonight's Super Rugby clash against the Crusaders in Napier.
Taumalolo's wife Diane was due to have their second child today. With things quiet on the home front Taumalolo was able to travel south with the Chiefs and celebrate his return to the Bay in style.
His 57th minute try proved vital in the Chiefs 24-19 win at McLean Park. It put the Chiefs ahead 21-13.
"I can go home happy now. Hopefully I'll get there before baby comes. I've done my job," Taumalolo said afterwards.
With Taumalolo's post Super season future still to be decided it may prove to be an appropriate send off from McLean Park for the Tonga World Cup star who has played 61 first class games for the Hawke's Bay Magpies since 2005.
Chiefs first five-eighth Aaron Cruden opened the scoring in the first minute with a penalty.
His Crusaders counterpart Tyler Bleyendaal had the opportunity to equalise in the fifth minute when Chiefs co-captain and lock Craig Clarke was ruled to be offside by referee Garratt Williamson but he missed the penalty attempt.
Bleyendaal was successful two minutes later when Chiefs flanker Tanerau Latimer was pinged for not releasing in the tackle.
Cruden missed a penalty attempt in the 17th minute and the score remained 3-all despite all the early pressure coming from the Chiefs. Cruden missed another in the 19th minute.
Cruden put the Chiefs ahead 6-3 in the 20th minute with a penalty from wide out after Crusaders winger Israel Dagg was penalised for an armless tackle on Chiefs fullback Robbie Robinson.
The Chiefs were rewarded for their relentless pressure when co-captain and flanker Liam Messam crashed over for the first try of the game in the 25th minute. Cruden succeeded with the conversion from wide out.
Messam stopped a Crusaders try in the 27th minute when he prevented Crusaders captain Kieran Read from receiving a clean pass from halfback Andy Ellis.
Bleyendaal closed the gap to 13-6 in the 34th minute with a handy penalty after the Chiefs were ruled to be offside. A 37th minute penalty from Cruden gave the Chiefs a 16-6 lead at the interval.
The last play of the half saw Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow make a try-saving tackle on Crusaders hooker Corey Flynn.
Handling errors from both teams marred the early stages of the second half. These proved more costly for the Crusaders.
Centre Robbie Fruean scored the Crusaders first try in the 48th minute following a run from Read after a Chiefs turnover. Bleyendaal succeeded with the conversion and the "home" team trailed 16-13.
A 50 metre penalty attempt from Cruden in the 55th minute fell short.
Chiefs and Magpies prop Sona Taumalolo, a McLean Park crowd favourite put the Chiefs ahead 21-13 with a 57th minute try. It was one of his close range specialities after more pressure from the Chiefs pack.
Three minutes later Bleyendaal closed the gap with a handy penalty. Another penalty from Bleyendaal in the 63rd minute had the Crusaders trailing 21-19.
Cruden had the final say with another long range penalty in the 75th minute.
Clarke said the Chiefs adopted a similar game plan to what worked well in the previous week's win against the Blues.
"We carry direct and we have good support for our carriers."
Read agreed spilt ball and lost opportunities proved costly for his side.
"We had some great patches but could not put things together. You have to do that in tight games. Penalties cost us too," Read said.
CHIEFS 24 (Liam Messam, Arizona Taumalolo tries Aaron Cruden con 4 pens) bt CRUSADERS 19 (Robert Fruean try Tyler Bleyendaal con 4 pens) at McLean Park. Referee: Garratt Williamson.
- Herald online