Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Chiefs edge Hurricanes in barnburner

CHIEFS 28 HURRICANES 27
Seta Tamanivalu of the Chiefs fends Matt Proctor of the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty
Seta Tamanivalu of the Chiefs fends Matt Proctor of the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty

Another win for the Chiefs and another game to confirm their status as title favourites.

They were taken to the brink by a Hurricanes team that are going to stay in the hunt deep into this competition.

To the brink, but not beyond and that's the thing about the Chiefs - they can scramble their way to victories when things aren't going their way. They were reduced to playing with 14 men in the last five minutes for some unfathomable reason. They also got out of jail when Jason Woodward dropped with the line at his mercy in the last play of the game.

Their scrum was under pressure and they couldn't dominate territory or possession, but they defended supremely well and they found enough magic to score the points they needed.

That's their game - genuine guerilla tactics which work because they are able to be so direct and clinical when they need to be. They have just a touch of the unconventional about them, too.

Damian McKenzie was able to create out of nothing and Seta Tamanivalu gave a strong reminder why the All Blacks selectors are keen on him. He was powerful and influential and maybe a little lucky to be awarded his first try, but definitely not with the second which came about on the back of his pace and power.

As it happened: Chiefs v Hurricanes

Good rugby was a feature of the game and predictably, there was a bit of feeling off the ball. It didn't take much for things to flash: what would normally have passed as innocuous was sending players into a bit of a frenzy.

What did surprise was how long it lasted. Usually these things work themselves out after a couple of scuffles, but both teams still looked willing to duke it out even late in the first half.

The Hurricanes were quite happy about that as it appeared to be part of their plan to rush the Chiefs and get in about them. Their defensive linespeed was impressive and their ability to harry and hassle saw the Chiefs fray a little round the edges.

That was no doubt a result of the occasion. New Zealand derbies have taken on a different set of pressures this year and with so many direct All Black match-ups all over the field, it added to the feeling there was more than usual on the line.

As for those match-ups, there were a few surprise results. Brad Weber did his case plenty of good. Capped last year against Samoa, the Chiefs halfback is pushing to add to that tally, although some of his passing became a little wild as the game wore on.

His pace caused the Hurricanes a few issues and he's the sort of player who the All Blacks selectors might be thinking about letting loose late in tests.

The Beauden Barrett Aaron Cruden head-to-head probably confirmed more than it surprised. Both did what they were expected to do and mixed things up well enough in difficult weather conditions.

A swirling wind in Wellington is never easy to read and the challenge for both teams was to get the balance right between playing for territory and using the ball well.

If they both just about got that right, neither did much, if anything to ease the growing anxieties about their combined lack of goalicking pedigree.

Again, Cruden didn't take any shots as the responsibility sat again with Damian McKenzie. Barrett couldn't read the wind and while he looked a million dollars when he ran into space, he didn't look confident when he kicked for goal. A total of 13 points went astray - a big total in any game and a giant one between two such evenly matched teams.

Jason Woodward took over towards the end and while that was good for the Hurricanes - he slotted his first attempt - it wasn't such a good sight for the All Blacks.

Chiefs 28 (S. Tamanivalu (2), M. Leitch, T. Seu tries; D. McKenzie 4 cons)
Hurricanes 27 (C. Jane, D. Coles, T.Perenara, B. Barrett tries; B. Barrett con, DG; J. Woodward con)

- NZ Herald

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