The Waikato Chiefs finished full of running yesterday to post an emphatic 33-14 victory over the Wellington Hurricanes in Hamilton, New Zealand, and cement top spot in the Super Rugby standings.
Second-half tries from Leila Masaga, Sona Taumololo and Toby Smith, and 18 points off the boot of Aaron Cruden, secured the Chiefs their eighth straight win from nine games in the season.
“I’m just rapped that we could get a win and keep the ball rolling,” skipper Craig Clarke, who notched his 50th Super Rugby match with the Chiefs, said in a pitch-side interview.
“After halftime, we thought if we could hold the ball a little bit longer, then we could create things,” he said.
The Hurricanes took their fifth loss of the season, but had raised hope of reeling in the hosts when Beauden Barrett’s third penalty kick put them within five points, 17 minutes after the break.
However, Chiefs prop Taumololo barged over the line eight minutes later to ease the pressure, before replacement Smith slammed the door shut with a 76th minute try.
Cruden, laser-sharp all night, kicked the Chiefs to a 12-8 lead at halftime with four penalties, but the Hurricanes had the first try through Andre Taylor five minutes before the break, the fullback charging 50m down the left wing.
Livewire winger Masaga kept the Hurricanes at bay with a try five minutes after halftime, breaking a tackle with a piercing run to cross beneath the posts after receiving a flat pass from scrumhalf Brendon Leonard.
Any evidence that the Chiefs might tire after their long-haul flight home from South Africa quickly evaporated, as the home side kept the Hurricanes scoreless in the last quarter and added 14 points to keep their dominant season rolling.
STORMERS 17, FORCE 3
The Stormers made light of miserable conditions to rout Western Force 17-3 in their match in Perth, Australia, yesterday and finish their tour of Australia and New Zealand on a high.
Bryan Habana and Peter Grant each scored tries in driving rain at nib Stadium as the visitors handled the wet far better than the hosts, who fumbled the ball incessantly and were kept scoreless for the last 63 minutes.
The Cape Town-based Stormers return home with an imperious 8-1 record after winning three out of four of their tour matches.
The Force, who dumped their coach Richard Graham last week after he announced he was quitting the club to join the champion Queensland Reds next year, slumped to their seventh loss of the season and are all but out of the playoff race.
“I don’t think you can fault our effort, I think we just need to be a little bit more creative in attack,” Western Force skipper David Pocock said.
“They’re the best in the competition and it showed,” he added.
The Force notched their lone penalty goal in the 17th minute to break a prolonged stalemate, but gave up the advantage in galling fashion four minutes later. Flyhalf David Harvey’s pass was intercepted by a swooping Habana, who cantered 50m to cross beneath the posts.
Harvey later shanked a penalty kick a couple of minutes before halftime, to allow the Stormers to take a 7-3 lead to the break.
Grant extended the lead to 10-3 with a penalty a few minutes into the second half, followed by a try in the 49th minute, the flyhalf ghosting through a gap out wide after a sustained assault on the Force try-line.