Rugby: Fast-finishing Chiefs earn another draw

By Kris Shannon

Augustine Pulu played his part in keeping the Chiefs in the game when he ducked down for his side's only try in the first half. Photo / Sportpix
Augustine Pulu played his part in keeping the Chiefs in the game when he ducked down for his side's only try in the first half. Photo / Sportpix

Cheetahs 43
Chiefs 43

Lightning really can strike twice.

For the second straight week the Chiefs staged a remarkable comeback this morning (NZT) to claim a share of the spoils against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

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Exactly seven days after their late escape against the Bulls, the Chiefs scored five unanswered tries in the second spell to save themselves from an embarrassing loss against the last-places Cheetahs.

The Chiefs required a successful conversion on the final kick of the game to earn a draw. Unlike Gareth Anscombe's sideline effort last week, though, Aaron Cruden couldn't miss from right in front when Tim Nanai-Williams crossed under the posts after the hooter.

The last-gasp heroics gave the Chiefs three points for the second week running but the parity shouldn't detract from what was, in large stretches, another disappointing performance, particularly in the first half.

Like a weary traveller down to their last dollar, the Chiefs will be desperate to return to the comforts of home as quickly as possible. They went without a win on their road trip and, while a haul of seven points was satisfactory, it was hardly championship calibre.

The result did increase the Chiefs' lead atop the New Zealand conference - now sitting four points ahead of the Blues - but their healthy position is more a reflection of the flaws in this country than their own strength.

A dispiriting defeat against the Force in Perth was followed by a pair of unconvincing draws in South Africa, leaving the rest of the competition hopeful of an opening and leaving the Chiefs eagerly anticipating consecutive games at their Waikato Stadium stronghold.

It was a horror first half which found the Chiefs in such a challenging position against the Cheetahs, as the home side headed to the break holding a 24-point lead that wasn't entirely undeserved.

Halfback Sarel Pretorius crossed for a pair of tries, the first from the Cheetahs' own endeavour but the second after a Chiefs scrum meekly conceded a penalty near the line.

The Chiefs weren't helped when the TMO inexplicably overlooked an obvious forward pass to allow Rayno Benjamin to cross, but Boom Prinsloo emphasised the hosts' dominance when he converted from a rolling maul to earn his side a bonus point before halftime.

Augustine Pulu played his part in keeping the Chiefs in the game when he ducked down for his side's only try in the first half, and the halfback burrowed over to open the scoring in the second spell to reduce the deficit to 17.

From there it was all Chiefs, with Asaeli Tikoirotuma's chip kick converted cleverly by Nanai-Williams, before the Fijian winger scored in the same corner after the Chiefs began to play with far more freedom.

Tikoirotuma scored his second when the Chiefs produced their best move of the match, fluidly flinging the ball through several sets of hands, before two penalties from Johan Goosen looked to seal the game for the Cheetahs.

Nanai-Williams and his fast-finishing team had other ideas.

Cheetahs 43 (Pretorius 2, Benjamin, Prinsloo tries; Goosen 4 cons, 5 pens)
Chiefs 43 (Pulu 2, Nanai-Williams 2, Tikoirotuma 2; Cruden pen, 5 cons)
HT: 34-10

- APNZ

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