Chiefs win secures Super Rugby finals spot
The Chiefs cemented a Super Rugby playoff spot with a 27-21 win over the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Friday.
The win was long-delayed revenge for the competition leaders, who were beaten 23-19 by the Highlanders in February’s opening round.
Tim Nanai-Williams opened the visitors’ account early after Sonny Bill Williams sliced through the midfield, found Tawera Kerr-Barlow on his inside who offloaded for Nanai-Williams to finish the 60-metre move.
The Highlanders kept in touch through three Chris Noakes penalties, but the Chiefs hit back late as halftime approached.
Giant prop Ben Tameifuna charged down a Noakes kick, and the Chiefs swung into attack mode. Kerr-Barlow and Williams featured again before new All Black Brodie Retallick’s quick hands found fullback Robbie Robinson out wide.
Ahead 18-9 at halftime, the Chiefs went further ahead at the restart through an Aaron Cruden penalty before the Highlanders hit back.
Fired up after a brawl following a Williams shoulder charge, replacement hooker Andrew Hore burrowed over from an attacking lineout to narrow the gap to just seven.
The battle up front was unrelenting, and the Chiefs scrum was kept under pressure by a Highlanders front row in no mood to back off.
But the mistakes crept in as the match wore on, and the Highlanders coughed up too much possession as they lost momentum and play grew increasingly scrappy.
With barely five minutes left, the Highlanders capitalised on some aimless Chiefs kicking to regain territory and Hosea Gear’s try came after strong Highlanders rucking.
Mike Delany added the extras, setting up a tense final few minutes which tested the Chiefs defence mightily right until the final whistle.© AAP 2013
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