Chiefs sprint clear of the Cheetahs
March 2, 2013
Sam Cane was a strong performer in the Chiefs' pack
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The Chiefs have maintained their undefeated defence of the Super Rugby title, producing a dynamic final quarter to run away from the Cheetahs at Waikato Stadium.
The hosts looked anything but defending champions in the first half, a shadow of the team that impressed so much in opening their campaign with victory against the Highlanders, as the Cheetahs dominated possession and territory. The Chiefs led at half-time, 10-3, only because the Cheetahs failed to claim reward for having 79% of the possession - predominantly because fly-half Johan Goosen missed three kicks at goal.
But the Chiefs returned after the interval with renewed intensity, stung by words from the coaching staff; assistant coach Wayne Smith said in a half-time interview that the hosts had been "woeful ... believed the press a wee bit", and he will have been pleased with the response as his players showed they will not relinquish the trophy without a fight.
Chiefs captain Liam Messam confirmed after the game that the players had received "a good telling off at half-time", saying the key to the team's improvement had been "quick ball at the breakdown ... it's something we pride ourselves on".
"They were beating us at our own game, at the breakdown," Messam said of the Chiefs' first half. "So we went back to basics; good, clean ball for our backs and we scored at the end of the game. They're big boys and something we pride ourselves on is the breakdown so we gave our backs some quick ball."
The Chiefs showed title credentials in running over the Cheetahs in the final quarter
The sides shared early penalty goals before the Chiefs took the lead with a try from Messam, in the 25th minute, the captain rumbling over for a converted try from the back of a ruck two metres out after the visitors had gifted the hosts position with three consecutive penalties.
The hosts extended the buffer three minutes into the second stanza, prop Ben Afeaki touching down from two metres for a simple try after Brodie Retallick had done well to charge down a clearing kick from Goosen.
They secured the victory when Aseli Tikoirotuma touched down by the posts in the 64th minute, after beautiful work from fly-half Aaron Cruden, to cap a typically patient multi-phase move from inside their own half.
And they secured the bonus point two minutes later when Gareth Anscombe scythed through the Cheetahs' defence after being put into space by Cruden on a loop to cap a first-phase backline move direct from a lineout.
Rhys Marshall, the Chiefs' replacement hooker, scored in the 74th minute, almost with his first touch, from a tap-and-go penalty after the Cheetahs had been penalised for offside. The Cheetahs' capitulation was completed when replacement prop Ben Tameifuna scored moments before the final whistle.
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