Damian McKenzie contributed 16 points as the Chiefs held on for a 26-18 win over the Hurricanes in Hamilton on Friday. CRAIG LEWIS reports for SARugbyMag.
For the Chiefs, it’s a third successive win, while they condemned the defending champs to their first defeat of the season. In wet weather conditions, the Chiefs’ outstanding defence (they are yet to concede a try within the first hour of any game this season) and their astute kicking proved to be the difference.
Despite the teeming rain in Hamilton, both teams still attempted to play with ball in hand, but typical handling errors crept in as scrappy possession and set pieces blighted proceedings.
Ultimately, the Chiefs adapted best to the conditions in the first half, with particularly McKenzie kicking well, while the Hurricanes were their own worst enemies as they conceded eight turnovers, six penalties and were handed two yellow cards.
It was while Ardie Savea was in the sin bin that Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick scored the first try, while in a big moment just before the break, scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow created a try for Toni Pulu that sent the hosts into a handy 17-6 lead.
McKenzie extended that buffer with a second penalty soon after the restart, and although the Canes eventually created a try that was finished off well by TJ Perenara, the Chiefs hung on to a nine-point lead heading into the final 15 minutes.
Before full-time, McKenzie slotted his third penalty, and although Chiefs No 8 Michael Leitch did receive a yellow card for a high tackle late in the game, with Julian Savea scoring soon after, it was never going to alter the result.
It could have secured the Canes a losing bonus point, but a fourth penalty from McKenzie after the final whistle clinched an eight-point win to take the Chiefs to the top of the New Zealand conference.
Chiefs – Tries: Brodie Retallick, Toni Pulu. Conversions: Damian McKenzie (2). Penalties: McKenzie (4).
Hurricanes – Tries: TJ Perenara, Julian Savea. Conversion: Beauden Barrett. Penalties: Barrett (2).