James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Rugby: Cowbells clang as Waikato celebrates with Chiefs

An enthusiastic reception for Sonny Bill Williams as he runs into the crowd after scoring the Chiefs' final try in their 37-6 victory over the Sharks in the Super rugby final in Hamilton.  Photo / Alan Gibson
An enthusiastic reception for Sonny Bill Williams as he runs into the crowd after scoring the Chiefs' final try in their 37-6 victory over the Sharks in the Super rugby final in Hamilton. Photo / Alan Gibson

The party goes on for newly crowned Super rugby champions the Chiefs with a victory parade through central Hamilton today.

The Chiefs demolished a travel-weary Sharks side 37-6 in a lopsided Super 15 rugby final in Hamilton on Saturday night to become the third New Zealand side to win the title.

Their coach, Dave Rennie, became the first rookie coach to win a Super rugby title.

The win sent Hamilton into party mode, with hundreds of delirious cowbell-ringing fans making their way to bars in the central city and others letting off fireworks in their backyards despite the rain.

The Chiefs celebrated at their Ruakura training base with team management, friends and family members before they hit the town and partied in the garden bar of central Hamilton pub Shenanigans until 3am yesterday.

Many of the players carried on their celebrating well into yesterday afternoon; Chiefs co-captain Liam Messam tweeted "I think the boys are still going haha" shortly after midday.

Hamilton hospitality identity John Lawrenson, who owns several bars with Chiefs members, said the players were "gearing up for a huge one" when he saw them after their win on Saturday.

"I think it is a well-deserved blowout because they have been very committed this year," he said.

"They have obviously focused on their title, got what they deserved and now they are celebrating."

Mr Lawrenson said thousands of fans descended on central Hamilton after the game and scenes in town were similar to those after All Black tests.

"It was a really good night and any incidents that there were were really just minor. It was one of the best crowds I have seen - these were people who were just out to have a good time."

Buoyed by consistent performances and better weather, the Chiefs enjoyed a surge in popularity and attendances at their home games were up more than 90 per cent on last year.

The franchise's chief executive, Gary Dawson, said he was overjoyed the team had finally achieved the one goal that had eluded them in their 17-year history.

"It is very difficult to achieve and s not many teams have done it ... so it's a huge achievement and it is testament to the coaches and the guys and the hard work they have put in over the past nine months.

"We are very, very proud of what the boys have done."

A Chiefs parade down Victoria St today at 12.30pm will culminate at Garden Place, where the team will receive the city's official congratulations.

"This is the city's way of saying thanks to the Chiefs, who've thrilled us with their play this season and capped it off with their first title, won on their home ground, said Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker.

The Chiefs' title win crowns a stellar year for sport in the Waikato after the successes of the Lake Karapiro-trained Olympic rowers, the ANZ Championship winners Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and the Plunket Shield-winning Northern Districts Knights cricketers.

HAIL THE CHIEFS

Victory parade:
* Starts at Knox St at 12.30pm.
* Travels down Victoria St to Garden Place for official city congratulations to the team.

- NZ Herald

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