Rugby: Sloppy Chiefs get the job done

By Gregor Paul in Hamilton

Augustine Pulu of the Chiefs is tackled by Nic Stirzaker of the Rebels during the round nine Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Rebels. Photo / Getty Images.
Augustine Pulu of the Chiefs is tackled by Nic Stirzaker of the Rebels during the round nine Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Rebels. Photo / Getty Images.

CHIEFS 22
REBELS 16

Credit to the Chiefs, they do know how to provide variation on a theme.

They gave away that late comeback business last night, only to try it all in reverse - build a healthy early lead and then slowly drift out of the game.

First take: Chiefs miss Cruden's spark

Neither strategy particularly suits them and they only got away with it tonight on the back of home ground advantage and the Rebels' notorious love of getting gloriously close. They do love to blow a golden opportunity and that's what they had.

The Chiefs were sloppy, out of sorts and on the ropes for the last 15 minutes. They were there, lurching to nowhere with little intent or direction and still the Rebels couldn't get the job done.

They may not get a better chance and it's hard to believe that a better side wouldn't have put the Chiefs away.

The champions would freely admit that luck, reputation and single bloody-mindedness are carrying them at the moment.

Once again, they didn't convince. They didn't get close. There was a disturbing lack of accuracy and urgency. The travel factor, so all the coaches reckon, is more of an issue in the first game back from Africa than their first game in Africa and perhaps that can be used to explain some of the erratic and unpolished work produced by the Chiefs.

Only some of it, though. Fatigue can't be the sole reason they looked so rushed and harassed when in possession.

It can't fully justify some of the panic that appeared to infest the decision-making or the almost total lack of discipline.

The Rebels didn't offer much other than hanging onto the ball for long enough to entice the Chiefs into some kind of needless infringement. It would hardly be relevant for them to argue they were hard done by a referee who lacked badly out of his depth - that's pretty much par for the course these days.

You get what you get and while it's not right, much of the contest boils down to which team can adapt best to the randomness of the officiating.

Still, for all their inefficiency, the Chiefs managed to once again pop a swag of points in their bag. They didn't give a champion performance by any means but when they can play that badly and win, they still appeal as a championship-winning team.

The question for them is how do they rediscover the performances they are after? Last night they couldn't find the cohesion to build the momentum they need to be at their best.

When they fall into that fast recycle pattern, they become untouchable but there were just too many errors to turn the dial to the top of the green and leave the Rebels grasping at nothing.

For too long, the game was owned by the Rebels and if it hadn't been for the heroics of Brodie Retallick, things may have been different.

Retallick, asked to step in as captain, played with the authority and presence of a young man who realises he could dominate this game for a decade or more. He pretty much fixed up the wobbly lineout himself, didn't muck about with is decision-making and provided all the clatter and destruction he usually does.

He wouldn't feature on any list of great orators, but he wouldn't need to: his leadership is of the by example kind and he'd be a hard man not to feel inspired by.

And it was a night the Chiefs needed leadership. It was, of course, the first time in 42 games that they were without Aaron Cruden and to double the trouble, Liam Messam - the other beating heart of this side - spent the first 60 minutes on the bench.

It was very much an exercise in keeping it together for the Chiefs. The Rebels have shown all season that they have enough rugby nous to bely their status. They can play if they are given a chance and the Chiefs made the mistake of giving them that chance.

At 19-0 up after barely a quarter, it could and should have been all over by half-time. Instead it went to the wire and for the third week in a row the Chiefs were scrambling in the final 10 minutes.

Chiefs 22 (M. Fitzgerald try; G. Anscombe con, 5 pens)
Rebels 16 (S. Horie tries; J. Woodward con, 3 pens)

- Herald on Sunday

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