Rugby: Clinical second half attack puts Chiefs on top

By Kris Shannon

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie accurately summed up his side's performance in their unconvincing win over the Highlanders on Saturday night.

"It's probably a good thing there were no microphones in the coaches' box," he said.

While those microphones may have picked up a few choice words in the first half, by the end of the 21-19 victory the prevailing expressions would have been sighs of relief.

The Chiefs took just two games to assume their now-customary position atop the New Zealand conference, though both of their wins have hardly been without difficulty.

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A lack of ball was countered by a staunch defence against the Crusaders, before composure and a clinical attack ensured they edged past the Highlanders despite a surfeit of penalties.

Considering they are the only unbeaten Kiwi side without playing anywhere near their fluent best, the Chiefs have already demonstrated their capability of turning two straight titles into three.

And, heading into the bye, they now have a fortnight to amend any areas of weakness and allow some of their walking wounded the time required to return to action.

Boasting an injury list in double figures for both games this season, the Chiefs have managed to accrue eight points due to their determination and a depth in numbers.

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The winning culture developed under Rennie certainly helps the former and it also plays its part in the latter, with the likes of Tasman's James Lowe choosing to spurn the Crusaders in favour of a shift north.

Lowe, who clinched victory in Christchurch, was one of a number of the bench brigade to impress against the Highlanders, with Tasman teammate Liam Squire setting up the winning try and Andrew Horrell also busy upon his introduction.

"We've got good depth and we've got a lot of confidence in our bench, so we were really happy with the contributions of those guys," Rennie said.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Tanerau Latimer were both stand-outs after recovering from injury to make their first starts. And, with the casualty list set to drop from double figures to just two or three before the Stormers visit Hamilton in two weeks, the reinforcements will keep on coming.

Chiefs' next two games following this week's bye


- APNZ

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