The Chiefs will look back at their encounter against the Hurricanes and lament the fact that they let it slip away, but thanks to COVID-19, the loss is now the least of their problems.

The men from the Waikato led 24-14 with the last quarter remaining, before going on to lose the game 27-24 to their opponents from the capital in what was a typically bruising encounter.

It could indeed end up being the last game Warren Gatland's men play for some time.

Super Rugby has been suspended for the "foreseeable future", throwing the Chiefs and all the other 15 teams into limbo.


SANZAAR announced the suspension in wake of stringent travel restrictions imposed by the New Zealand and Australian Governments, which would require all travellers entering the country to self-isolate for 14 days as the threat of the spreading COVID-19 virus increases.

No word has been given on when, or if, Super Rugby will recommence, and the competition joins a growing list of major sporting competitions and events to be called off.

The Chiefs currently sit third on the New Zealand conference, ironically just above the Hurricanes who they lost to on Friday night.

Much of the talking point from this game will be about the ugly last quarter that the Chiefs had, losing all territory and kicking the precious little possession they had away with a continued, some would call questionable, high ball strategy.

Those were indeed some of the moments late in the game, but it was doubly compounded by ill-discipline in parts.

With an extra man on the park for 10 minutes, the Chiefs had managed to make the Hurricanes pay for TJ Perenara's dangerous tackle on Solomon Alaimalo.

When Shaun Stevenson scored in the 57th minute, building on earlier tries by Lachlan Boshier and Tumua Manu, the Chiefs were out to a two try lead.

Given the way that the game had gone until that point, it felt like it would be just enough to secure a victor.


Then the penalties started to come, thick and fast, kick-starting the Hurricanes surge back and forcing the Chiefs to play rugby deep in their own territory thanks to their own mistakes.

Following that, it was all one-way traffic. Ultimately, the Hurricanes scored 13-unanswered points to come back and clinch the match.

It's another big gut punch for the Chiefs in front of their home fans. Their defence fought valiantly, look no further than the last period of play when the Hurricanes rumbled for 35-phases for evidence of that.

Much will also be made of the penalty on Reuben O'Neill, who was ruled to have not used his arms when going low to tackle a charging Vaee Fifita.

It was a contentious decision by referee Jaco Peyper, prior to that, the match was set to end in a draw. That penalty gave Jordie Barrett and the Hurricanes their final kick at goal, and ultimately, it won them the match.

But the wider context of the whole issue late in the game was where the Chiefs were having to play the game. Pinned in their own end, frantic and disorganised.


After such a gruelling encounter, there was obvious disappointment within the Chiefs camp and captain Sam Cane said that the result came down to moments.

"It was a dingdong physical encounter, both teams had their opportunities, there were probably some big moments in the game which effected the outcome but we didn't control the ball down in our own end in that last ten minutes", Cane said.

Chiefs coach Warren Gatland pointed to a lack of discipline that handed back momentum to the Hurricanes.

"I thought we kicked poorly a few times which gave them opportunities, I thought we were going to finish out but a few critical penalties kept them in the hunt", Gatland said.

The Hurricanes had run at the Chiefs all night, often getting over the gain line, setting the standard early when they scored first, punishing a mismatched Chiefs defence that couldn't settle early on.

The Hurricanes were also effective in compromising a key part of the Chiefs high tempo game thanks to some good work at the breakdown throughout.


The Chiefs had their chances and took a few of them, recovering well from another slow start in what turned out to be the classic tight tussle encounter than New Zealand-derbies tend to put on show.

But for the Chiefs, this really is a turnaround in fortune, especially after such an impressive showing a week ago.

It shows that the Chiefs aren't quite the competition frontrunners they've showed signs of being throughout the first six weeks of Super Rugby, some technical improvements need to be made if Warren Gatland and his men are to avoid getting into a scenario of inconsistency.

Winning games at home is crucial, the Chiefs have now dropped two on the bounce.

They may not get another chance to win in front of their fans for a while now, thanks to Covid-19.

Michael Pulman is a freelance journalist based in Hamilton