The Chiefs beat the Highlanders to put old demons to rest and get their Super Rugby campaign off to a winning start.
Dave Rennie’s men beat the Highlanders 15-24 in a three tries to nil performance. In doing so, the Chiefs have secured their first win against the Highlanders since 2014, and managed a bonus point out of the encounter. It was your typical style of rugby for a clash so early in the season; aimless and scrappy from both sides. With perfect conditions for running rugby under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium, the Chiefs were the better side and head into Round Two with a deserved victory.
“Any result down here is a good one and we will be better for the hit out”, Rennie said speaking from Dunedin.
The Chiefs always looked the more composed side when the big moments came. A better executed set play was a big difference maker for the Chiefs, and it provided Hika Elliot his ninth try in Super Rugby. James Lowe was gifted two tries from intercepts, and in the end, the Highlanders never dotted over the line themselves.
FULL-TIME: Strong defence leads @ChiefsRugby to bonus point away victory over @Highlanders in Dunedin #HIGvCHI https://t.co/ljdfG3zsbM pic.twitter.com/EjyzcJ0jHV
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) February 24, 2017
Early Season Wobbles for Highlanders
James Lowe’s double-batch of tries were both from intercepts off two of the Highlanders best play-makers; Aaron Smith and Waisake Naholo. The lack of composure handed the Chiefs 14-points, and it didn’t reflect a half of rugby where the Highlanders were defending their own line too much. Possession was well in their favor, as was time in the opposition red zone, but solid Chiefs defense restricted the home side to just nine points in the opening half.
2 ways of looking at this Highlanders defeat:
1 Highlanders have played poorly.
2 Highlanders have played very poorly.
— Marc Hinton (@marchintonffx) February 24, 2017
The Highlanders were forced to chase the game; but their opportunities to wrestle back the lead were plenty. Head coach Tony Brown will be less than impressed when he sees the stats that suggest the Highlanders were in a position to score far more points than what eventuated. Handling errors cost the Highlanders ‘big time’ tonight.
The Post Match Lowdown
The victors weren’t pleased with their performance, despite getting the spoils. Speaking to the media, Dave Rennie wasn’t too pleased with his sides performance.
“We got quite lucky early and at halftime I felt like we hadn’t played much footy. We controlled the game well late, so that’s a positive”, Rennie said to the media.
“A lot of these tight affairs are about taking opportunities, and obviously you take that sort of luck but we are rapt to get the win.”
Rennie pointed to the set play and defense as the key points in his sides victory. New Highlanders coach Tony Brown said that his men were well below par in Round One. “As a team we were way off the pace in terms of execution and just pretty rusty really”, Brown said to SkySport.
“I thought our back three were outstanding so there are lots of positives but we just have to work better as a team”, Brown said.
Key Notes from Highlanders v Chiefs
- Ben Smith suffered a moderate concussion. He is expected to be sidelined for 3 weeks.
- The result is the Chiefs first win over the Highlanders since 2014.
- The Highlanders failed to score a try; their 15-points coming from Lima Sopoaga’s boot.
- Aaron Cruden enjoyed a perfect night with the goal kicking boots, with a perfect 100%.
“Main photo credit”