Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Double delight for Chiefs

Liam Messam of the Chiefs in action during a Super Rugby Final match between the Chiefs and the Brumbies. Photo / Getty Images.
Liam Messam of the Chiefs in action during a Super Rugby Final match between the Chiefs and the Brumbies. Photo / Getty Images.

CHIEFS 27
BRUMBIES 22

Double delight came for the Chiefs but it took all their courage to claw their way past the Brumbies for the Super 15 title.

History, travel and all sorts of factors were against the visitors but they brought an extra suitcase of sporting valour with them in their travelling kit. Anyone who watched their courage would comprehend.

They were pugnacious, combative and unrelenting-factors which got them off to a fast start and kept them ahead of their more favoured foes until the Chiefs found their sting late in the final quarter for the 27-22 triumph.

Maybe they upped the tempo, perhaps the Brumbies felt the effects of their last few weeks. Who knows but the Chiefs found the go button when they needed it.

Two tries deep in the last quarter from Liam Messam and Robbie Robinson delivered a repeat competition crown for the titleholders.

It was a gruelling final, a huge examination of the players' fitness and courage, a match where the two best sides in the series delivered a powerful statement about their right to shoot for the title.

The first half was a bruising, messy section with both teams feeling the wrath of referee Craig Joubert for a clutch of mistakes. Offside, hands in the ruck and other errors received the referee's condemnation.

That brought kickers Chrisian Lealiifano and Aaron Cruden int the most focus.

Former Waikato rep Lealiifano was mistake free for the opening 40 minutes with three penalties and then the conversion of his own try when he latched onto a loose Chiefs pass.

Whereas Lealiifano's strikes were pure, Aaron Cruden looked like he was kicking a lopsided turkey. They certainly flew with that sort of sloppy precision but somehow three of his four attempts found their mark.

In general play the Chiefs looked to have an edge but there were too many rough edges to their work. Passes were not finding their mark. They went behind players, on the deck or had a loopy trajectory like too many from Tawera Kerr-Barlow.

One of those stretched Hika Elliot and his palm off was expertly poached by Lealiifano on another of his up and in defensive missions.

The second five eighths hardly broke stride even with the awkward regather and torched the defence in a 40m sprint to the line.

It was a huge moment for the Brumbies in the shadow of halftime and became even better when Lealiifano nailed the touchline conversion.

The five eighths continued to kick for gold as the mistakes multiplied and it was Lealiifano who kept his cool with two successes while Cruden hit the post with one of his two attempts in the third quarter.

The Chiefs rebuffed one huge moment though.

George Smith who was at his imperious best again, pinched the ball from a breakdown and another veteran Clyde Rathbone latched onto a grubber kick and steamed away downfield.

The wing careered on deep into the 22 before he was claimed by Cruden in a magnificent cover tackle. The trouble was far from over as the Brumbies hammered at the line with the TMO asked to adjudicate when it looked like the pack had rumbled over.

All the heat was on the Chiefs and finally they found some magic.

Replacement flanker Sam Cane shelled a pass with a gnat's nose of the line but from a scrum, Messam wheeled away and crossed for his team's opening try.

They were back in the final. Replacement Bundee Aki gunned it downfield with Asaeli Tikoirotuma and when the pair were boxed in down the left, the ball was swung right for another replacement Robinson to surge unopposed through a huge gap.

Exultation for the Chiefs and their fans had to wait for a TMO ruling about some obstruction but when Vinny Munro gave that a green light, the roars went up again at Waikato Stadium.

That crescendo got another boost when Cruden rediscovered his radar and kicked the conversion then a penalty. Eight minutes left and the Chiefs were five points in front.
Would their defence hold? Ask anyone in Chiefs country.

Chiefs 27 (Liam Messam, Robbie Robinson tries Aaron Cruden 5 pen, con
Brumbies 22 ( Christian Lealiifano try, con, 5 pen) Halftime: 16-9 Brumbies

- NZ Herald

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