Takeaways From Chiefs Opening Round Super Rugby Win

While there is a lot to improve on, Dave Rennie appears to be satisfied with how his side got themselves out of a losing position against the Crusaders to come back and win 27-21.

Like they did in 2015, the Chiefs have started their Super Rugby campaign in a winning performance that saw youngsters in the squad stand up and outshine their senior counterparts.

Takeaways From Chiefs Opening Round Super Rugby Win

It wasn’t that the Crusaders didn’t play well enough to win the game either. The crucial battle at set piece was won by the Crusaders, and a lot of whistle by referee Chris Pollock towards the Chiefs showed that Dave Rennie’s men haven’t quite got their heads around the new rules adopted for this years Super Rugby at scrum time and at the breakdown.

A big take away from the result was the amount of time the Chiefs were pinged at scrum time. Not only that, but turnover possession in the scrum gave the Crusaders a try, and at the time, the lead of the game just before the halftime break.

Brodie Retallick didn’t have the impact at the breakdown that the Chiefs needed, but a strong debut for Taleni Seu in the flanking role impressed even the most devout of critics.

The Chiefs scored four tries; two coming late in the game to snatch victory away from the Crusaders in what was a topsy-turvy affair.

Damian McKenzie has drawn a lot of praise following the 27-21 victory for his performance, which included a try and crucial conversion to put the Chiefs into the lead. Coach Dave Rennie said the impact the 20-year old had was massive and it provided the spark the Chiefs needed late in the game when the side was tiring. It was McKenzie’s first impactful performance playing at fullback for the Chiefs, a position that McKenzie has previously failed to impress in. Fans have been calling for the coaches to give McKenzie another run at first-five after few chances last season, McKenzie himself has eluded to his desires to play first-five as well, but the youngster didn’t shy away from backing himself against the Crusaders playing in his second preferred role.

Once again, McKenzie showed no fear and proved he can be dangerous from anywhere on the field, no matter what the scoreboard shows.

An impressive debut for Shaun Stevenson, playing in the unfamiliar role of winger, ended with  what could be a season-ending injury. After scoring in the first half, the 19-year old appeared to have sustained a serious right arm or shoulder injury. Not official announcement has been made as yet from Chiefs management but expect to hear something soon.

On his much-awaited return to competitive rugby, All Black kicker Aaron Cruden didn’t take the ball to the line too much, instead passed the ball on quickly and kicked the ball into empty spaces on the field, trying to keep the Crusaders in their own half. In the opening quarter of the game, thanks to winning the battle at the breakdown and holding possession, the Crusaders kept the Chiefs pinned near their red zone, so it was up to Cruden to kick the ball away, something the returning superstar did well early on.

Dave Rennie can also thank Charlie Ngatai for providing a spark in the backline, finding gaps in the Crusaders line and drawing in defenders to allow his teammates to run free.

All in all, the opening round of Super Rugby saw the Chiefs in a tussle that has become the norm when the Crusaders are the opposition. There is certainly room for improvement in the area of the set piece, but the bigger story here is the scoreline, the Chiefs came back to win after trailing at halftime, and that is something this club wasn’t able to do a lot of last season.

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