Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Rugby: Chiefs hold off Hurricanes

Liam Messam of the Chiefs makes a break during the round 14 Super Rugby match between the Hurricanes and the Chiefs. Photo / Getty Images.
Liam Messam of the Chiefs makes a break during the round 14 Super Rugby match between the Hurricanes and the Chiefs. Photo / Getty Images.

Hurricanes 12
Chiefs 17

If the Hurricanes somehow qualify for this year's Super Rugby playoffs it will be down to good luck and the results of others rather than their own doing.

Mark Hammett's men made life tougher for themselves as they went down 17-12 to the Chiefs in Wellington tonight and with four games to go plus the bye, the top six looks a long way off.

At the final whistle tonight they were down in ninth place on the ladder but could finish the weekend as low as 11th depending on how other results fall.

The Hurricanes managed to keep their season alive last week with a win over the Cheetahs but ran out of puff against the high-flying Chiefs at the Cake Tin.

The first 10 minutes was an entertaining stanza as both sides threw the ball around despite the wet conditions, although the points scoring was limited to a shoot-out between each team's five-eighths.

Chiefs pivot Aaron Cruden and Hurricanes first-five Beauden Barrett are locked in a duel to prove who should be Dan Carter's back-up for the All Blacks this year.

Cruden has the obvious edge given he has more experience and has been the preferred deputy in recent seasons but Barrett is nipping at his heels and has looked assured in recent weeks for the Hurricanes.

In a penalty-laden opening 40 minutes, Cruden kicked four attempts at goal, while Barrett added three as the sides left for a rest with the Chiefs in front 12-9.

There were few highlights in the opening spell, although some bone-jarring tackles did welcome a few players in to the game.

Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow looked destined to score in the 35th minute but a brilliant cover tackle from Jack Lam saved the Hurricanes' bacon.

Kerr-Barlow was the recipient of some good work from Charlie Ngatai who busted through a couple of tackles to make a clean line break before finding Liam Messam who handed the ball on to the No 9 but Kerr-Barlow couldn't find the chalk.

Despite the early entertainment the game meandered in to an _ at times _ ugly affair with plenty of knock-ons, errors and mediocre kicking options on attack.

Part of it could be put down to the greasy conditions but quite often the biggest problem was poor decision-making from both sides.

The game finally kicked in to life when Tanerau Latimer scored the first try of the game in the 55th minute when a TJ Perenara kick was charged down from a defensive lineout.

Kerr-Barlow snapped up the loose ball and found Latimer who dotted down and gave the Chiefs a healthy 17-9 advantage as the game moved in to the final quarter.

Latimer was only a late inclusion to start the game as regular openside Sam Cane was scratched during the week due to a back strain.

Down on the scoreboard the Hurricanes began to play with more urgency but struggled to punch holes in a swarming Chiefs' defence who made their tackles with great efficiency during the second half.

As the game wore on the home side appeared to run out of options as they struggled to find a way through against the defending champions, who produced a workman-like performance, which was all that was required considering the conditions.

Barrett only managed to add another penalty, which wasn't enough for the Hurricanes.

Giant prop Ben Tameifuna was sent to the sin bin for the final 10 minutes of the contest but the Chiefs showed great heart to hold on.

Next week the Hurricanes have the safety of the bye, while the Chiefs host the Crusaders in Hamilton next Friday night.

Chiefs 17 (Tanerau Latimer try; Aaron Cruden 4 pens) Hurricanes 12 (Beauden Barrett 4 pens) HT: 12-9


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