Champion Chiefs weather storm

By Kris Shannon

Attacking flair and stout defence breaks down Stormers.

Gareth Anscombe beats the tackle of Jozua Francois Malherbe and carries the Chiefs forward during their 36-20 victory over South Africa's Stormers in Hamilton last night. Photo / Getty Images
Gareth Anscombe beats the tackle of Jozua Francois Malherbe and carries the Chiefs forward during their 36-20 victory over South Africa's Stormers in Hamilton last night. Photo / Getty Images

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 at Waikato Stadium last night.

"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."

The Chiefs have passed every examination presented this season.

Staunch defence beat the Crusaders, then patience and level heads proved too much for the Highlanders. Last night, the Stormers' defence was put to death through a thousand cuts.

Before a final quarter that had more parity, the match was played in a familiar pattern.

The two teams engaged in a tactical battle, 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 the Chiefs looked like they had spent the bye week seeking a solution.

Much of the home side's success came from 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 it was eventually successful.

"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 Chief's control was established in the opening spell, though Tom 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 James 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 halftime lead, it was pure skill that enabled them to add to their advantage after the break, a miracle pass from Tim Nanai-Williams allowing Tawera Kerr-Barlow to stroll in 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 Tevita Koloomatangi and Tanerau Latimer 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

- NZ Herald

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