Chiefs down 'Canes in top of the table clash
May 9, 2009
The Chiefs' Sione Lauaki fends of the Hurricanes' Andrew Hore at the Waikato Stadium
© Getty Images
The Chiefs upset the Hurricanes 16-8 in their Super 14 clash at the Waikato Stadium in Hamilton to temporarily claim the top spot in the table and edge nearer a home semi-final.
Out of sorts for much of the first half the Chiefs answered those who continue to doubt their title credentials by sparking to life and leapfrogging the Hurricanes into first place with just one round of the regular season remaining. Fly-half Stephen Donald was an influential figure, scoring all of his team's points, including three penalties in the opening stanza which allowed the Chiefs to jog into the tunnel at the interval with a 9-8 lead.
Donald then bust the game open almost immediately after the restart, slipping past prop John Schwalger before stepping fullback Cory Jane on his way to the tryline. He converted his own try from in front of the goalposts and the Chiefs, now up 16-8, were in the ascendancy for the first time in a match in which frequent infringing at the breakdown tried the patience of referee Bryce Lawrence for 50 minutes.
In the closing quarter heady play from second five-eighth Callum Bruce earned the Chiefs valuable field position as he used his boot to park the Hurricanes deep in their own territory. The visitors had a chance to challenge in the 72nd minute after a midfield break by second five-eighth Ma'a Nonu.
Centre Conrad Smith played the link role but his pass to left wing David Smith was dropping when the winger fumbled the ball as he braced to be tackled by his opposite Lelia Masaga. The Hurricanes looked the better team in the first spell but could only manage a try to David Smith and a penalty to first five-eighth Willie Ripia.
Smith's five-pointer came in the 10th minute when Nonu provided him with a nicely timed delayed pass before the winger slid into the left-hand corner. Ripia had earlier landed a penalty but he later missed with three attempts, two of which were dragged to the right of his intended target.
They were all crucial misses as the Hurricanes needed points to prevent their first loss in five weeks since a 17-33 reverse to the Sharks in Durban.
The Hurricanes now need to win their last match, against the Reds in Brisbane next Saturday, to remain in contention for a playoffs berth. Due to the congested nature of the competition, the Chiefs, too, will want to beat the Brumbies at home on Friday, just to safeguard their top four position.
Chiefs: Muliaina (captain), Masaga, Kahui, Bruce, Sivivatu, Donald, Morland, Taumalolo, de Malmanche, May, Clarke, O'Neill, Messam, Latimer, Lauaki
Replacements: Elliot, McGougan, Lynn, Lilo, Bason, Delany, Anesi.
Hurricanes: Jane, T.Ellison/ Guildford, Smith, Nonu, Smith, Ripia, Weepu, Schwalger, Hore, Tialata, Thrush, Eaton, Vito, Waldrom, So'oialo (captain)
Replacements:Robinson, J.Ellison, Evans, Levave, Mathewson, Kawau, Guildford/ Fruean