After starting the season with two losses, there was plenty of positivity around the Chiefs' chance to turn their fortunes around against the Sunwolves in Hamilton tonight.

Then Damian McKenzie put the opening kick-off out on the full.

Starting the game in arguably the worst possible way was just the first offering in an 80-minute error-fest from the Chiefs, who turned the ball over 22 times and missed 32 tackles, and were deservedly dispatched 30-15 by the visitors.

It was the first time since the Sunwolves' inception in 2015 that they had won away from home, breaking a streak of 24 straight losses, and their second Kiwi scalp after decimating the Blues 48-21 in 2017.


From McKenzie's inexcusable start to the game, the Chiefs defence was tested immediately. Coming into the match with the worst defence in the league after conceding 84 points in just two matches, the Chiefs lived up to that title – conceding a try to Sunwolves openside flanker Shuhei Matsuhashi inside the opening two minutes. Hayden Parker added the conversion and a penalty, and within six minutes the Chiefs were behind by 10.

While the Sunwolves were doing well to dominate possession, the Chiefs did themselves no favours by coughing it up every time they found themselves with the ball.

It wasn't pretty from the Chiefs, and a telling sign of where their confidence levels were at came in the 26th minute when they were awarded a penalty in Sunwolves territory. Normally a spot you'd have expected the side to kick to touch from, McKenzie slotted a penalty to put the hosts on the board.

Seeing the scoreboard tick over didn't have the desired effect for the Chiefs. Their play didn't lift and the Sunwolves took advantage though lock Uwe Helu, whose try gave the Sunwolves a 20-3 lead at the break.

The one bright spot in a sea of mediocrity for the Chiefs was Alex Nankivell. Making his first appearance of the season, the young midfielder impressed on both sides of the ball and was rewarded with a try early in the second half.

Gerhard van den Heever of the Sunwolves makes a break against the Chiefs. Photo / Getty
Gerhard van den Heever of the Sunwolves makes a break against the Chiefs. Photo / Getty

Any highs the Chiefs experienced after the try were short-lived however. The Sunwolves pressed on with the job first through the boot of Parker, then crossing the stripe again through winger Gerhard van den Heever.

Trailling 30-10 with less than 15 minutes to play, the Chiefs were in trouble. Winger Etene Nanai-Seturo cross to give the Chiefs some hope, but as their handling errors continued to plague their evening, the Sunwolves did enough to close out a famous victory.

It's the first time since 2009 that the Chiefs have started the season with three losses on the bounce. No team has won the competition starting the season with three losses in as many games. The silver lining for the Chiefs is that they made the final that year, but they're going to need to improve immensely if they want to have any hope of scraping into the playoffs this season.


Sunwolves 30 (Shuhei Matsuhashi, Uwe Helu, Gerhard van den Heever tries; Hayden Parker 3 cons, 3 pens)
Chiefs 15 (Alex Nankivell, Etene Nanai-Seturo tries; Damian McKenzie con, pen)
HT: 23-3