After five games in the regular season, the Chiefs were rock bottom in the New Zealand conference and lost their star fullback, Damian McKenzie. On the other hand, the Rebels were the form team in the Australian conference.
Now, after this game, the Rebels have been knocked out of playoff contention whereas the Chiefs have, most likely, qualified for the seventh season in a row. It’s unbelievable how the fortunes for both teams have drastically changed over four months.
The conditions were considered tricky due to heavy rain the previous night. The Chiefs were the first to score via All Blacks flanker Sam Cane, who scored on the back of an impressive line break from young No.10 Jack Debrecenzi in the 13th minute. The try was also converted by the young fly-half.
The Rebels hit back four minutes later through a Reece Hodge penalty. From that moment onwards the Chiefs dominated the game, scoring 52 points to the Rebels’ five.
Shaun Stevenson scored the first of his three tries in the 22nd minute after smothering an attempted kick by Quade Cooper, pouncing on the loose ball to score. Debrecenzi converted the try.
Lachlan Boshier scored the next try after the half-time hooter, via another loose ball from the Rebels which Stevenson picked up and passed it to Boshier. Debrecenzi converted the try to make the score 21-3 at half-time.
Three minutes after the break, winger Sean Wainui scored spotting the gap on the left and Debrecenzi missed the conversion. The score, 26-3.
From the 49th minute to the 60th, the Chiefs scored three converted tries. All Blacks centre Anton Lienert-Brown, crossed the try line in the 49th minute, while Stevenson and Debrecenzi crossed in the 52nd and 57th minutes, respectively.
By the time Matt Phillips scored the Rebels’ only try in the 67th minute, they’d already been embarrassed – their season was done and dusted.
Another loose ball led to another try for the Chiefs in the 72nd minute for Marty McKenzie, who converted his own try. Stevenson completed his hat-trick in the 76th minute via a skillful finish just inside the corner flag. The game ended with a penalty for the Chiefs after an infringement by Campbell Magnay. The final score; 59-8 in favour of the men from Hamilton.
The Rebels were their own worst enemy last night, surrendering 20 turnovers and missing 30 tackles – twice the number of missed tackles the Chiefs made. The Rebels conceded 125 points in the last two games of their season and only scored eight points. They also conceded more than 50 points in two consecutive weeks.
A very disappointing end to a season that promised so much, especially after leading the Australian Conference and being in the top five in the early stages of the season.
The boys from Hamilton were brilliant and are a clear threat for the playoffs. They are one of only two teams to have beaten the top of the ladder Crusaders this season.
The star players for the Chiefs were fullback Stevenson who made 12 runs for 151 metres, four clean breaks and defenders beaten, three tries and two tackles for the game. Lienert-Brown also ran over 100 metres from the 16 runs he made, with three clean breaks, beating seven defenders and two offloads.
Brad Weber had another brilliant game and keeps pushing his case for an All Blacks recall after nearly four years. Weber made 64 passes, eight runs for 58 metres, one clean break and offload as well as defeating four defenders.
Sam Cane made 16 tackles for the game. The Chiefs have completed an amazing turnaround and, if they qualify for the playoffs, they have solid form and could be a serious threat to the other contenders.