Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Rusty Chiefs get job done

Liam Messam of the Chiefs charges forward during the round 18 Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty Images.
Liam Messam of the Chiefs charges forward during the round 18 Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty Images.

Chiefs 34
Hurricanes 22

A rusty performance, this, from the Chiefs, but as we have seen so often over the past couple of years, it was enough to get the job done and in the end it was surprisingly easy.

The Hurricanes too played their part in this entertaining match at Waikato Stadium tonight which marked the resumption of Super Rugby.

It was a match which featured seven tries, but plenty more excitement. Beauden Barrett's match-up against Aaron Cruden was a cracker, the Hurricanes man probably shading it, and the battle between halfbacks TJ Perenara and Tawera Kerr-Barlow was another highlight. Perenara's departure with an ankle injury in the second half was a blow to the visitors.

When the dust settled it was the Chiefs who had claimed five competition points _ Ben Tameifuna's late try amidst a mass of bodies giving them a bonus. The bald facts are they have overtaken the Brumbies to sit atop the competition ladder and are guaranteed a home qualifier place at least.

They will improve on this performance, though, and their next match at Waikato Stadium isn't likely to be until the end of July when they host a semifinal.

The Chiefs were like a misfiring Ferrari. They sure looked the part, but their problems could have been costly.

Possession was lost too often, allowing the dangerous Hurricanes backs, with Julian Savea in top form, too much space. Conrad Smith, the returning All Blacks centre, was also a tireless worker.

Tackles were also missed. There were uncharacteristic mistakes, but it would be churlish to dwell too much on them given the Chiefs' inactivity for the past month. Their bye added to the three-week test break.

Kerr-Barlow's try in the second half - disputed due to replacement flanker Sam Cane's obstruction of a defender - knocked the stuffing out of the Hurricanes. Cruden's conversion put the score out to 27-15.

The Hurricanes had the better start - Perenara's superior body position allowing him to reach the line under Liam Messam, a try which owed much to Jeremy Thrush's composure on the wing when fielding a high cross-kick from Barrett. When the catch was made, under pressure from Asaeli Tikoirotuma, the new All Blacks lock did well to stay in-field and carry on his surge for the line.

Tikoirotuma was straight back in the spotlight - catching the re-start by Cruden to put on attack in a visit to Hurricanes' territory which resulted in a try to No8 Matt Vant Leven, the Chiefs taking advantage of a lineout mistake by the visitors. The blow of losing hooker Dane Coles before kick-off was a big one.

Aki was next on the scoreboard when finishing off an excellent Chiefs' set piece try, but just as the Hurricanes were in danger of losing their grip on the match at 17-7 down before the half hour, Mark Hammett's men went straight back and scored through Barrett, the first-five running on to a nice pass by Brad Shields and forcing the ball down in Lelia Masaga's tackle.

Barrett missed the conversion but added a penalty and then watched after the hooter as Cruden missed a very kickable three-pointer.

Barrett's miss from a similar position just after halftime denied his team the lead and from there the Chiefs took control at last.

Alapati Leiua's late try was a good reward for the Hurricanes.

Chiefs 34 (Matt Vant Leven, Bundee Aki, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Ben Tameifuna tries; Aaron Cruden 4 cons, 2 pens) bt Hurricanes 22 (TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Alapati Leiua tries; Barrett 2 cons, pen). HT: 17-15.


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