Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Loe: So is travel a valid excuse for Sharks' final defeat? Oh no it isn't

Sonny Bill Williams impressed last night.
Photo / Alan Gibson
Sonny Bill Williams impressed last night. Photo / Alan Gibson

The travel factor can't be used as an excuse for the Sharks performance. They were beaten everywhere, from numbers 1-15.

The Sharks had about 15 minutes of attacking play in the first half but, apart from that, it was really one-way traffic. The Chiefs did them up front and I think that is consistent with what we have seen from Dave Rennie's men all season. Ben Tameifuna - what a find he is turning out to be - turned The Beast (Tendai Mtawarira) inside out all game and, when he went off, Ben Afeaki came on and did the same thing.

That's my point - that front row included the du Plessis brothers, Jannie and Bismarck and are pretty much the mainstay of the Bok scrum. They came a long second. Sona Taumalolo, the Chiefs' other prop, was good again and they had the wood on the Sharks at the breakdowns. Consistently.

The Chiefs locks, skipper Craig Clarke and another real find, Brodie Retallick, were into everything. Clarke is a bit of a talisman for the Chiefs and Retallick, the new All Black, has got a real bag of tricks.

He is good in the air, is quick, tackles, cleans out, and cleans up.

When you have a front five like that, no side is safe and the Sharks were a long way from safe last night. You can say they made tired-looking mistakes, but I think it was the intense, in-your-face defence that we have seen from the Chiefs for most of the season and which they showed against the Crusaders in the semifinals, for example.

Liam Messam had another cracking match - accurate and physical. There was speculation yesterday that he and Zac Guildford could miss out on the All Black squad for the Rugby Championship. I haven't seen Adam Thomson play for a while - but I'd keep Messam now. He has played well, without missing a beat, since that test he played for the All Blacks and we need players like him there.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow had another strong game close to the rucks and mauls and kept the Sharks busy there - and I don't know why they brought Brendon Leonard on, unless it was to mark his last Super Rugby hit-out for the Chiefs.

However, the other substitutions were managed well. When you can bring on people like Afeaki, All Black hooker Hika Elliott and young loosie Sam Cane, you have got real continuity and impact happening.

Those loose forwards - Messam, Tanerau Latimer, Kane Thompson and Cane - gel well together and they far outpointed bigger-name players like Ryan Kankowski, Marcel Coetzee and Keegan Daniel.

In the backs, Aaron Cruden looks better with each outing now and he picked some holes in the Sharks' defence. Lelia Masaga scored smartly and Sonny Bill Williams was always dangerous - though if he wants to jump into the crowd at the Roosters next year, he'll have to mind out for the empty seats.

It's been a fine season for the Chiefs and you also have to applaud the way the coaching group - Rennie, Wayne Smith and Tom Coventry - have gelled. If they can all stay together, this could be a bit of a Chiefs' dynasty.

- Herald on Sunday

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Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Wyllie Loe was a renowned All Black forward prop who plied his trade for the New Zealand national team between 1987 and 1995. Loe was well known by fans and team mates alike as an ‘enforcer’ on the pitch, a player who balanced his abilities with the ball with a tough-tackling prowess and a penchant for physicality. During an outstanding career Richard Loe represented his country of birth in no less than three World Cups, assisting the All Blacks to a famous victory in 1987. Along with fellow team mate and captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Loe formed one of the most formidable forward lines ever to lead the All Blacks. Despite his sometimes overly physical dominance on the pitch, Loe is regarded by former team mates as being an exceptional character and professional. Following retirement from rugby Loe became a sport columnist for the New Zealand Herald, a position he still holds today.

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