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.
Despite the effects of a long tour, the Stormers defense remained bulletproof as they protected their lead for the last half-hour to maintain their edge over the Bulls in the South African conference.
BRUMBIES 34, LIONS 20
Physical strength and slick handling helped the Brumbies to a six-try 34-20 victory over the Lions on Friday at Ellis Park.
The victory margin would have been much greater on a cool, clear night in the South African economic hub, had Australian goal kickers Christian Lealiifano and Jesse Mogg been on target.
Flyhalf Lealiifano and full-back Mogg each missed three of four shots at goal, as the Brumbies stretched their lead to six points over defending champions the Queensland Reds in the Australian Conference.
Right-wing Henry Speight (two), loose-head prop Ruaidhri Murphy, outside center Andrew Smith, left-wing Joseph Tomane and tight-head prop Ben Alexander crossed the line for tries, while Lealiifano and Mogg added a conversion each.
Down 34-6 midway through the second half in front of a small public-holiday crowd and reduced to 14 men after replacement back Butch James was sin-binned for a blatant shoulder charge, the situation looked grim for the Lions.
However, the bottom team in the South African Conference stirred themselves and outside center Jaco Taute and loose-head Caylib Oosthuizen claimed a pushover try each, with flyhalf Elton Jantjies converting both.
Jantjies also kicked two penalties during a first half in which the Lions led twice, before the power and pace of the Brumbies told to turn over with a 17-6 advantage.
Victory completed a satisfactory two-match tour for the Brumbies, who collected two bonus points from a narrow loss to three-time titleholders Northern Bulls in Pretoria last weekend.
The Brumbies are coached by Jake White, who guided South Africa to their second Rugby World Cup triumph in Paris five years ago, and joined the Canberra outfit last year.
After seven defeats in eight games, the Lions begin a four-match Australasia tour next weekend away to New Zealand Conference pacesetters, the Waikato Chiefs, in Pukekohe.
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