Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Chiefs lose to Stormers in thriller

Behind all day against the Stormers in Cape Town, the Chiefs lost their first match of the Super Rugby season but had their chance to steal a thrilling win at the finish.

Down 36-34 after the hooter at Newlands, Chiefs first-five Aaron Cruden faked a dropped goal attempt but decided to run the ball instead, only for the Stormers to win a disputed penalty from referee Jaco Peyper.

The defeat ruined their perfect two-bonus-point-victories start to the season, but the Chiefs take two bonus points from this match and it wasn't the worst result for them.

They have an easier prospect in the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth next weekend before returning to Hamilton to host the Highlanders in a replay of their opening victory over Dunedin.

However, there is plenty for Dave Rennie and Co to work on.

The Chiefs' lineout was problematic throughout - they lost their first two against the Stormers, who had Springboks lock Andries Bekker, all 2.08m of him, reigning supreme.

Ill-discipline cost them - they were without halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow late in the first half due to a yellow card for constant team offending at the breakdown and replacement flanker Nick Croswell late in the second for a silly obstruction as they chased the game.

They also lost the physical battle in contact and at the breakdown. The Stormers, who went into the game having lost their opening two matches, were desperate to the point of frantic at times, and that intensity carried them to a 10-point lead after only 10 minutes.

A Joe Pietersen penalty - he kicked seven from eight - put the Stormers ahead before little wing Gio Aplon scored the first of his two tries.

A lineout drive set up both scores and would be a key component for the Stormers.

Gareth Anscombe, and Pietersen swapped penalties, before Chiefs second-five Charlie Ngatai scored the first of his two tries when running on to a perfect Cruden grubber.

Tim Nanai-Williams scored the Chiefs' second, again running on to a Cruden grubber in Kerr-Barlow's absence but the little first-five made a poor error soon after when losing the ball in contact in front of his posts, allowing Aplon to score his second for the Stormers to take a 26-17 lead to the break.

Anscombe narrowed the gap with a penalty before Stormers halfback Nic Groom burrowed under Sam Cane to score a converted try.

The Chiefs' comeback started in earnest when Ngatai scored his second following good work by Nanai-Williams and Anscombe.

With 10 minutes left, Andrew Horrell, a replacement midfielder returning from a foot injury, scored the Chiefs' bonus point try in the corner after good handling from impressive prop Ben Afeaki.
Anscombe converted from wide on the right to narrow the gap to two points but ill-discipline and a lost lineout as the Chiefs pressed for the win proved costly.

Hooker Mo Schwalger appeared injured as he left the field in the second half, with the Stormers losing Springboks wing Bryan Habana with what looked like a knee injury.

The Stormers' front five and loose forwards outplayed their opposites - just as their countrymen the Cheetahs did against the Highlanders in Invercargill last night - but the difference was the Chiefs refused to concede and could have nicked an unlikely win in the end.

Stormers 36 (Gio Aplon 2, Nic Groom tries; Joe Pietersen 3 cons, 5 pens) bt Chiefs 34 (Charlie Ngatai 2, Tim Nanai-Williams, Andrew Horrell tries; Gareth Anscombe 4 cons, 2 pens). HT: 26-17.

- APNZ

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