They say there is nothing like a good thumping to bring a side back down to earth, and the Chiefs returned to FMG Stadium full of fire, ready to deliver a well rounded performance that fans would be proud of after a difficult couple of weeks. The win puts the Chiefs back at the top of this conference, on top of all Super Rugby.
With a bonus-point victory needed tonight to regain the lead of New Zealand’s Super Rugby conference, the Chiefs delivered a five-try dominant display shown mosty in the first half. Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said the performance was good at first, but aired his displeasure at how his side began to fall into the ‘handling errors of old’ in the second half.
“The first thirty five minutes was really sharp with good intensity and the ability to build pressure, but we just never got going in the second half. It was disappointing because there were too many handling errors”, Rennie said.
Chiefs co-captain Aaron Cruden said that he was delighted with the showing in the first half, in which the Chiefs would run in four of their five tries, but echoed his coaches displeasure of not being able to kick on in the second half.
“Coming back out of the sheds at halftime we looked a bit flat, and I guess if we have aspirations of going all the way in this competition then we need to put in eighty minute performances consistently”, Cruden said.
The Rebels could only score twice and were beaten in every area, including being unable to match the physicality of the Chiefs or keep up with the fast pace of the game, that told in the result.
Chiefs vs Rebels: As It Happened
The Chiefs first try of the night was set up by the power of the forward pack that shunted its way to the five-metre line off a line out after enjoying good possession in the opening stages. Brad Weber cleared the ball out to the back line, and Seta Tamanivalu stepped to his left, past two Rebels defenders, to score. Aaron Cruden was able to convert.
Mike Harris put the Rebels on the board to make the score 7-3 after 12-minutes, but a mistake retrieving the kickoff would see the Chiefs lead increase, albeit in a questionable fashion. Nathan Harris somehow found himself playing near the sideline,, and a brilliantly weighted grubber kick saw the Chiefs hooker slide into possession in the Rebels try line. Referee Angus Gardner wasn’t sure of the grounding and consulted the match TMO, and with the replays, it wasn’t conclusive the Harris had grounded the ball clearly, but the try was awarded anyway.
Harris failed to put Rebels 3-points closer after Chiefs number eight Michael Leitch was penalised for a late tackle, and the score remained 12-3.
The Chiefs seemed intent on grubber-kicking the ball over the Rebels try line to see if they could score another five-points after the Harris try earlier, but after remaining in the Rebels red zone for several minutes, momentum was lost when the Chiefs gave up a free kick in the scrum. With the Chiefs back on attack, a brilliant dummy pass from Weber suckered in a Rebels defender, and it was enough to create the smallest gap for Toni Pulu to run through and score. It was Pulu’s third try of the season, and it was thanks to a fast, sniper precision pass from Weber.
It wasn’t long until the Chiefs had their fourth try, thanks to a devastating break downfield by Aaron Cruden, and an amazing step by James Lowe who almost did a 360-degree turn on the spot, setting the Chiefs backs screaming downfield with ball in hand. Anton Lienert-Brown almost finished off the break by dotting over the try line but was desperately tackled by the Rebels. Still scrambling, the Rebels weren’t able to stop the Chiefs quick ball, and the man who had begun the earlier fast break, Aaron Cruden, was able to score easily.
At 26-3, it was razzle-dazzle style of rugby that the Chiefs have become known for, and the Rebels were struggling to hold onto tackles or keep up with the pace of the game. Back-to-back penalties saw the Chiefs spend some rare time in their own red zone, and the Rebels almost profited with their first try of the night by using quick hands to pass the ball out to the wing, but the last pass that setup the try just drifted forward.
The Chiefs headed into the sheds at halftime leading 26-3, and crucially, had also already secured their bonus-point with four tries in the first half.
The Rebels went on the attack as the game kicked off and remained patient with ball in hand, utilising their forwards and backs to surge downfield. Mike Harris steamrolled his way through a Chiefs defender and had the try line in sight. A desperate tackle couldn’t stop the Rebels fullback sliding over the line to score, providing the perfect start to the second half. Meanwhile, Chiefs prop Hiroshi Yamashita was forced to leave the field with what looked like a knee injury, but the Rebels were slightly back in contention 26-10.
Damian McKenzie almost bagged himself another try in a successful season but was pushed over the side line by the last Rebels defender. Michael Leitch, looking uncomfortable from an earlier knock, departed and was replaced by Tom Sanders at number eight. Quick hands from Weber after a strong surge by Brodie Retallick put the Chiefs in good position to score, but replays showed that inn an earlier phase, James Lowe had just stepped on the touch line while trying to offload possession. Meanwhile, the Rebels could not clear out of their own red zone, and the backline wasn’t helping skipper Nick Stirzaker much by not being in the correct formation to clear the ball effectively.
Awarded a penalty, the Rebels found themselves in Chiefs territory, only to lose possession thanks to a handling error. The Rebels got a second chance when the Chiefs lost the ball from a scrum, but the comedy of errors continued, and the Rebels coach was reaching boiling point in the grandstands. The Chiefs were desperate in defense, trying to hold onto their three-try, and bonus-point, advantage. However, with just 15-minutes of the game to go, the Chiefs had been held scoreless in the second half thus far and were certainly less clinical with possession.
Cruden finally got the Chiefs some points in the second half, slotting three points after the Rebels were penalized. Anton Lienert-Brown continued a strong outing by taking a superb catch under the high ball, sending the Chiefs attack onto the front foot and another great surge of attack began. A long floating pass by McKenzie saw Andrew Horrell score the fifth try of the night.
The Rebels answered back when Reece Hodge found himself with clear space and sprinted away for a late try, but unfortunately for the Rebels, it wouldn’t help the cause much. They had little reply to a more powerful Chiefs side that ran out dominant winners, with the final score 36-15 in Hamilton.
Chiefs back at the top
(Tries: Seta Tamanivalu, Nathan Harris, Toni Pulu, Aaron Cruden, Conversions: Aaron Cruden, 3, Penalties: Aaron Cruden, 1, Damian McKenzie, 1)
(Tries: Mike Harris, Reece Hodge, Conversions: Mike Harris, 1 Penalties: Mike Harris, 1)
“Main photo credit”