Rugby: Chiefs survive the Storm

By Kris Shannon

Tom Marshall of the Chiefs runs the ball during the round five Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Stormers at Waikato Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.
Tom Marshall of the Chiefs runs the ball during the round five Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Stormers at Waikato Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.

Chiefs 36
Stormers 20

The Chiefs remain unbeaten atop the New Zealand Conference and, if they can put together their whole package, that record will be hard to break.

The defending champions showed flashes of the attacking flair that brought a second title last season, beating the Stormers 36-20 at Waikato Stadium tonight.

"It was a step up, no doubt,'' coach Dave Rennie said of his side's performance. "We had a bit of pill tonight, which was good.

"It took a while to crack them - they were pretty desperate - but we put a bit of positive footy on the park.''

Another test arrives next week, with a trip to the republic preceded by a stopover in Perth, but the Chiefs have passed every examination presented so far this season.

It was a staunch defence that defeated the Crusaders, before patience and level heads proved too much for the Highlanders. Tonight, the Stormers' defence was put to death through a thousand cuts.

Before a final quarter that featured more parity, the match was played in a familiar pattern. The two teams engaged in an intriguing tactical battle, with last year's best attack probing in search of passage through the best defence.

The Stormers pride themselves on confounding opposition attempts to break them down and, in anticipation of that challenge, the Chiefs looked like they had spent the bye week seeking a solution.

Much of the home side's success revolved around a varied attack, with a willingness to spread the ball wide, especially to the left, complemented by countless passes popped up a moment before the tackle.

It was a high-risk strategy but one required as the Stormers scrambled well in defence, showing the tenacity the Crusaders encountered last week. And it was eventually successful, with the Chiefs' backline producing enough moments of brilliance to provide a healthy lead to withstand a late fightback.

"You certainly have to be positive against them,'' Rennie said. "If you're going to pick around the edge you're going to get belted all day. For a big part of the game, we did it pretty well.''

The Tasman combination of James Lowe and Tom Marshall both scored deserved tries in their first starts, while Liam Squire also impressed at No.8. And to complete an eventful night for the Makos, Tevita Koloomatangi came off the bench to earn the bonus point and clinch a game the Chiefs controlled throughout.

That control was established in the opening spell, though Marshall was the benefactor of a bit of fortune in both of his side's tries.

First he collected a bobble off his own boot before unleashing Lowe, then the Chiefs tried their luck after the hooter and Marshall dotted down after his attempted pass was batted into the in-goal.

If fortune aided their 11-point lead at halftime, it was pure skill that saw the Chiefs add to their advantage immediately after the break, with a miracle pass from Tim Nanai-Williams allowing Tawera Kerr-Barlow to stroll under the posts.

The Stormers were continually stuck playing without the ball in the second spell but, when they finally did get some pill, Gio Aplon eventually breached the Chiefs' line.

All the hosts' good work was in danger of being undone when Nizaam Carr crossed to bring the Stormers within four, before late tries from Koloomatangi and Tanerau Latimer in his 100th Super Rugby game sealed the result.

Chiefs 36 (Lowe, Marshall, Kerr-Barlow, Koloomatangi, Latimer tries; Cruden pen, 4 cons)
Stormers 20 (Aplon, Carr tries; Catrakilis 2 pens, 2 cons)
HT: 17-6

- APNZ

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