Tracey Nelson 's Opinion

Stats guru Tracey Nelson crunches the numbers

The Stats Don't Lie: Chiefs' defence leads the way

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Handling errors and turnovers cost the Highlanders, with 10 knock-ons and seven breakdown turnovers conceded, plus three lost lineouts. Photo / Getty Images
Handling errors and turnovers cost the Highlanders, with 10 knock-ons and seven breakdown turnovers conceded, plus three lost lineouts. Photo / Getty Images

Tracey Nelson crunches the numbers from the latest round of Super 15 where the Crusaders suffered just their fifth defeat at home in the last decade.

HIGHLANDERS v CHIEFS (21-27)

The Chiefs avenged their first round defeat by the Highlanders, and have now secured their spot as the New Zealand conference winners. Even though the Crusaders could potentially end up on the same number of points after the final round, the tie breaking rules would see the Chiefs as the conference winner having won more games overall.

This was the Highlanders third loss at home this season, having previously lost to the Stormers and Hurricanes. However, all the New Zealand sides have lost a home game in 2012 - the Chiefs and Crusaders have both lost one, while the Hurricanes have lost four and the Blues have lost six.

The Highlanders took the kick-off and held onto possession for the opening 90 seconds of the game, but it took the Chiefs just 20 seconds from turnover ball for Tim Nanai-Williams to score the opening try.

Handling errors and turnovers cost the Highlanders, with 10 knock-ons and seven breakdown turnovers conceded, plus three lost lineouts.

It was a huge defensive effort by the Chiefs pack, with their starting eight making a total of 124 tackles. Top tackler was Liam Messam with 27, followed by Tanerau Latimer with 22, and Craig Clarke with 21.

Sonny Bill Williams was always a danger on attack making six runs and four offloads in the tackle, but it was his seventeen tackles on defence that really stood out.

Hosea Gear made three linebreaks and 140 running metres, and capped it off with a try in the 76th minute of the game.

Adam Thomson made 15 runs for 75 metres, took a lineout and made 12 tackles, but also conceded three penalties.

Aaron Cruden's 17 points with the boot (six from eight attempts) leaves him just two points shy of 200 for the season.

CRUSADERS v HURRICANES (22-23)

The Hurricanes clinched just their fifth win in 21 games against the Crusaders, and they now have back to back victories in Christchurch having defeated the Crusaders when the two sides last met there in 2009.

The magnitude of this win by the Hurricanes is reflected by the fact the Crusaders have lost only five games in Christchurch in the last decade.

The Hurricanes won the game despite their set pieces being decidedly wobbly - four of Dane Coles' five lineout throws were ruled not straight in the first half, while in the second half their scrum was demolished by the Crusaders which saw them lose possession and conceded penalties from four of their five feeds.

Defence was again the order of the day in this match too, with the Hurricanes making 85 percent of their tackle attempts while the Crusaders only managed 77 percent. Jason Eaton and Matt Todd were the top tacklers in the match, both making sixteen.

Conrad Smith made two linebreaks and scored both of the Hurricanes' tries, taking his season tally to seven. He was also instrumental on defence making nine tackles.

Zac Guildford scored his seventh try of the season off a 63 metre run from inside his own half. He and Julian Savea made the most running metres in this match, with 94 and 97 metres respectively.

Andre Taylor made two linebreaks and set up Conrad Smith's first try of the night, but failed to cross the line himself. However, he still remains the top try scorer in the competition although the Bulls' Bjorn Basson is now just one try behind.

Richie McCaw, coming off the back of three test matches against Ireland, fronted up to 80 minutes of Super Rugby, winning four restarts, taking four lineouts, winning a breakdown turnover, making six ball carries and 11 tackles.

Beauden Barrett may have missed the most tackles of any player on the night with six, but was 100 percent with the boot, landing two conversions and three penalties. He now has 184 points for the season.

Tracey Nelson

Stats guru Tracey Nelson crunches the numbers

Tracey Nelson is a rugby statistician who looks closely at the numbers of every Super 15 and All Blacks test to give a concise answer to which players and teams are leading the way on the field.

Read more by Tracey Nelson

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