Chiefs bounce back from mid-season slump
Waikato side overwhelm Lions while Crusaders and Waratahs also notch impressive victories
The Chiefs scored three tries in a six-minute spell on either side of half-time to secure a bonus point from a 38-8 win over South Africa’s Lions in Super Rugby in Hamilton on Saturday, breathing new life into their title defence.
Centre Charlie Ngatai, returning from injury, created one try and scored another in a pivotal three-minute period leading into the break, then prop Paulasi Manu scored three minutes after the resumption to seal a bonus point and the win.
Fly-half Gareth Anscombe scored the first of the Chiefs’ tries while centre Bundee Aki and fullback Tim Nanai-Williams scored the fifth and sixth against tiring opposition in the last eight minutes as the two-time defending champions roused themselves from a mid-season form slump.
“Anyone who thinks the Lions are easy is wrong. They’re a good side,” said Chiefs captain Liam Messam. “I’m really proud of the boys. We had our backs against the wall and we came out and produced a performance.”
Crusaders fly-half Colin Slade kicked a conversion and seven penalties for 23 points to lead his team to a 40-20 win over the ACT Brumbies and continue the Christchurch-based team’s form surge in the mid part of the season.
Slade booted the Crusaders to a 22-6 half-time lead with five penalties and the conversion of a try to winger Johnny McNicholl, scored just after the half-time siren.
The Brumbies started the match in second place and the Crusaders in eighth but the hosts dominated, and capitalised on errors and indiscipline from the Brumbies, who have not won in Christchurch in 14 years.
“We know they’re a very good defensive side, they don’t allow many points per game, so to create that quick ball really allowed us to play and it was pleasing to score those points,” said Crusaders captain Ryan Crotty.
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, returning from injury to play his first match in six weeks, got through all 80 minutes.
The New South Wales Waratahs ended the Wellington Hurricanes winning run with an exhilarating 39-30 win in Sydney.
The Waratahs played one of their best matches of the season to deny the Hurricanes five tries to three in a 69-point breathless thriller to get their season back on track.
The Hurricanes had been the competition’s form team, winning their previous four games, and looked set to continue on their winning way when they exploded to a 24-7 lead after 27 minutes.
But the home side fought back to go in at half-time level at 24-all and were never headed in the second half scoring two more tries.
In Cape Town, the struggling Stormers edged the Highlanders 29-28 helped by three rare tries by props.
Starting tighthead Frans Malherbe scored two, his first tries in Super Rugby, and replacement front-rower Oliver Kebble one to see the Stormers squeak home for just a third win in 10 games this season.
In the other match, the Bulls beat the Cheetahs 26-21.
Associated Press, Agence France-Presse