Chiefs edge thriller in Wellington

Date published: April 23 2016

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The Chiefs extended their lead at the top of the New Zealand Conference after finishing on top of a classic battle with the Hurricanes, winning 28-27.

The lead changed hands constantly throughout the 80 minutes at Westpac Stadium as both sides finished with four tries each, but the goalkicking of Beauden Barrett proved to be crucial.

Striking an early drop goal, Barrett missed several kicks off the tee, five in total, although his all-round play was superb, including right at the death when his break gave the Hurricanes a chance to win it.

Jason Woodward however couldn't haul in the pass with the line at his mercy as the Chiefs clung on, despite their scrum taking a hammering.

Seta Tamanivalu's first-half brace was matched by tries for Cory Jane and Dane Coles, with Michael Leitch and Taleni Seu the scorers for the Chiefs after the break countered by scores from TJ Perenara and Barrett.

The key however was the goalkicking of Damien McKenzie, the in-form full-back landing four brilliant conversions to ultimately settle the contest.

Barrett's clean break set up the opening try, as he sliced through a gap and found the veteran winger Jane to finish in the corner.

A contentious response followed from the Chiefs, with Tamanivalu doing brilliantly to beat his man on a charge to the line, but he appeared to lose control of the ball with the grounding. However after extensive replays the score was given, McKenzie converting to put the Chiefs ahead.

A well-taken drop goal from Barrett swung the lead back the way of the Hurricanes in an entertaining start.

Westpac's tricky wind conspired to make Barrett miss consecutive penalty attempts and after surviving that tricky spell the Chiefs were back up the other end of the field.

Toni Pulu showed good speed and strength to hold off the Hurricanes defence and within inches of the line he flicked an offload out the back for Tamanivalu to grab his second try. McKenzie, with the assist of Mitchell Graham, overcame the wind to land the conversion from out wide, making it 14-8.

Naturally the lead swung again, Coles hammering his way over from close range with Barrett converting to put the Hurricanes ahead by one.

Complete dominance at the scrum meant the Hurricanes were enjoying a comfortable platform, but a bad miss from Barrett on the stroke of half-time prevented them from extending their lead, settling for a 15-14 advantage at the break.

An unbelievable four-minute passage of play straight from the restart was eventually halted by a try for Leitch, the Japan star crashing over under the posts to put the Chiefs back in front with their third try.

You knew it wouldn't last long with Coles, having a special game, putting in a thundering hit on Sam McNicol before the playing his part with a fine offload to release TJ Perenara for a cracking try. Barrett's kicking woes continued, missing his sixth kick off the tee.

The magic wasn't over, McKenzie's slight of hand setting up another chance which was finished off by Taleni Seu, the full-back then crucially adding the conversion to make it 28-20.

That gap beyond a converted try left the Hurricanes chasing the game and they turned to Barrett for inspiration. The All Black's brilliant offload to Michael Fatialofa was then returned to him with Barrett stepping on the gas to score.

Jason Woodward's conversion after taking over the kicking duties to cut the gap to one again, but because of a combination of injuries and replacements the Chiefs were forced to finish with 14 men.

The deficit in personnel threatened to cost the Chiefs and Barrett so nearly made them pay, another superb burst of speed seeing him break the defensive line once more, but Woodward couldn't catch what appeared a regulation pass to hand the Chiefs another win.

The scorers:

For Hurricanes:
Tries: Jane, Coles, Perenara, Barrett
Cons: Barrett, Woodward
Drop Goal: Barrett

For Chiefs:
Tries: Tamanivalu 2, Leitch, Seu
Cons: McKenzie 4

Hurricanes: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Vince Aso, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Blade Thomson, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (c), 1 Reg Goodes
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Loni Uhila, 19 Vaea Fifita, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Te Toiroa Tahurirorangi, 22 Willis Halaholo, 23 James Marshall

Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Sam McNicol, 10 Aaron Cruden (cc), 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (cc), 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Allardice, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Mitchell Graham 
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Maama Vaipulu, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Glen Fisiiahi

Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant Referees: Nick Briant, Brendon Pickerill
TMO: Glenn Newman

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