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Super Rugby round seven
Rennie lauds 'best' defence
ESPN Staff
March 31, 2013
The Chief's flanker Liam Messam tries to find a way through the Highlanders' defence. Highlanders v Chiefs, Super Rugby, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand, February 22, 2013
Liam Messam is certain the Chiefs' attack will soon click into gear © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Liam Messam
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Teams: Blues | Chiefs | New Zealand

Saturday night's 26-13 win over the Blues ensured Dave Rennie's Chiefs cemented their place atop the New Zealand conference - five points ahead of the second placed Crusaders.

Five wins and a solitary loss to start their title defence is an effort Rennie is immensely proud of but that's not what excites him the most.

Almost all of those victories were hinged on their ability to suffocate and disrupt opposition teams with fierce defence.

With 113 points conceded, they are the toughest team to crack in the New Zealand conference. Just ask the Blues how frustrating it was not being able to get into the attacking 22 for the opening 40 minutes.

"There were a lot of setbacks and I thought that the boys showed a lot of composure through that," Rennie said after the match. "It certainly wasn't perfect but it was two teams that were going pretty hard at each other and she was pretty physical. "It was probably our best defensive effort, to be honest."

Rennie was clearly upset that more than six try-scoring opportunities were left on the field but captain Liam Messam assured that it was just a matter of paying more attention to the finer details.

"We're not far off, so once those passes do stick and we hold onto the ball then it's going to be exciting times for our attack," Messam said.

The win was achieved with no less than six key players watching from the stands, three of which are expected to return after the bye.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow (jaw), Robbie Robinson (ankle) and Ross Filipo (knee) are a long way off but Mahonri Schwalger, Craig Clarke and Tim Nanai-Williams should be fit to play the Reds in round nine.

The same cannot be said for Ben Afeaki, who limped off the field in the second half with an ankle injury.

Scans are set to reveal the extent of the damage but Rennie is already eyeing try-scorer Ben Tameifuna as the next cab off the rank.

Meanwhile, Blues coach John Kirwan was willing to admit his side was out-matched for class, but said he could not fault what he saw in terms of effort and determination.

The Blues persisted with their style of running rugby but Kirwan felt that it was time to add variation to the attack and hinted that they would look to kick more frequently, especially in their own half.

He revealed his key decision makers were instructed to kick for field position in the second half but felt it was not executed well enough.

"We probably need to play a bit more balanced - so kick the ball a bit more at times but it's all part of learning," Kirwan said.

After the Highlanders failed to outrun the Chiefs a week previously, it's a wonder why the Blues opted to employ the exact same tactic from the outset at Bay Park Stadium.

Nonetheless, the lesson has been learned and captain Ali Williams feels the change in style is necessary.

"We don't want to stop playing the game of rugby but we want to cut down on those errors and sometimes there is a time for a kick," he said.

The Chiefs will take the next four days off before returning to training next Thursday ahead of their clash with the Reds the following week.

The Blues will host the winless Highlanders at Eden Park next Friday.

The Chiefs' defence excelled one again as they solidified their place atop the conference (Australia only)
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