Rugby: Chiefs continue playoff chase

By Kris Shannon

Aaron Cruden produced a dominating display as the Chiefs kept alive their season. Photo / Getty
Aaron Cruden produced a dominating display as the Chiefs kept alive their season. Photo / Getty

Chiefs 24
Hurricanes 16

The Chiefs will live to fight another week after producing a timely display to condemn the Hurricanes to a damaging defeat in Hamilton tonight.

After suffering through a three-game losing streak that sent their season into a tailspin, the Chiefs kept alive their dream of a Super Rugby hat-trick and, at the same time, all but ended the Hurricanes' own playoff hopes.

Although the Hurricanes still sit inside the top six - one point ahead of the Chiefs - they will almost certainly watch helplessly as they get squeezed out during an ill-timed bye week.

The Chiefs could be one side to sneak past their inactive foes, with another win needed next week against the Blues. And their chances of finding that result at Eden Park will be strong if they replicate their performance from tonight.

There were only two disappointments for the Chiefs - finishing with just two tries when they really required a bonus point, and the fact this side of them has remained unseen for so long.

After all, it took until their campaign was on the line before the defending champions started to show some of the form that made them so fearsome in seasons past. They were slick with ball in hand, picking-and-going with great success around the rucks and linking well when they chose to spread it wide.

The defence was staunch, the lineout excelled and the scrum survived a stern test from the Hurricanes pack, while Aaron Cruden had a hand in everything good as the Chiefs slowly but surely established supremacy after an even opening.

There were no signs of the sky-high stakes for much of the match, with a cagey approach eschewed in favour of a punishing intensity that saw both defences bend without breaking.

That the first points took 20 minutes to arrive was somewhat surprising, but the home side signalled their attacking intent when Cruden turned down an easy three points to kick for the corner and allow Jamie Mackintosh to crash over.

As pleasing as that was for the Chiefs, they would have been equally satisfied with the lack of response from the Hurricanes, with the visitors struggling to get their share of the ball as the half wound down.

Cruden and Beauden Barrett instead engaged in a prolonged kicking battle, one from which the Chiefs emerged in better shape as they found a fluid rhythm while attacking around the fringes.

Cruden's third penalty saw the Chiefs take a 10-point lead to the break and it was a gap indicative of the control the champs found, leading in almost every offensive statistic as the Hurricanes made three times as many tackles.

The visitors continued to struggle to unlock the Chiefs' defence as the second spell saw another lift in tempo, an increased speed that seemed to suit the Chiefs as the Hurricanes were left hanging on.

Better decision-making, first from Tim Nanai-Williams then from James Lowe, could have seen the hosts score in either corner, but the hunt for the try that would virtually seal the game appeared to be proving elusive. Until, that is, Cruden broke free and popped a pass for Brodie Retallick to earn suitable reward for another outstanding game.

The Hurricanes pulled within eight when Hadleigh Parkes stretched across the line from close range but, after a substantial delay created by a triple streak from Waikato Stadium's Green Zone, the visitors never threatened to force a nervy finale.

Instead, the Chiefs closed out the contest and turned their attentions to another New Zealand conference showdown with the Blues.

Chiefs 24 (Mackintosh, Retallick tries; Cruden 4 pens, con)
Hurricanes 16 (Parkes try; Barrett 3 pens, con)
HT: 16-6

- APNZ

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a3 at 30 Aug 2014 18:40:59 Processing Time: 554ms