It certainly wasn't pretty, but the Chiefs went back to the top of the table with a valuable 18-12 win over the Sharks in Durban.
It certainly wasn't pretty, but the Chiefs claimed a valuable 18-12 win over the Sharks in Durban on Saturday to send them top of the Super Rugby table.
Twenty-five points were scored by the two teams' respective fly-halves, with Aaron Cruden's haul superior by one to that of Patrick Lambie's. A try after the hooter from replacement scrum-half Augustine Pulu simply adding salt into the home side's wounds.
With the gluttony of possession, the Sharks will feel that they really should have come out on top but a combination of too many errors and dogged defence from the Chiefs meant that the Sharks' homecoming was not a happy one.
The home side dominated the opening exchanges but errors from both sides punctuated much of the opening quarter.
It was only in the 19th minute that the deadlock was broken and slightly against the run of play too. Cruden ghosted over to score under the posts after JP Pietersen was distracted by the dummy run of Richard Kahui. The hosts protested the obstruction had occurred but their pleas fell on deaf ears and the fly-half added the extras.
The number ten added a further penalty before the Sharks finally got on the board just before the end of the first period, with Lambie slotting a three-pointer after Tawera Kerr-Barlow was pinged for off-side.
Both sides had their moments early in the second-half, but handling errors were the name of the game unfortunately as all too often an attacking move was halted by a knock-on.
It was the Sharks who kept the scoreboard ticking over, with Lambie adding two further penalties to bring the hosts within one point.
The Chiefs could consider themselves lucky not to have gone one man down when a shoulder charge from Lelia Masaga on Lwazi Mvovo while the winger collected a high kick left both men lying prone on the ground, with neither continuing but luckily making their way off the field without assistance.
Cruden and Lambie exchanged penalties as the Sharks fought desperately to take the lead for the first time. Penalties conceded at crucial moments hindered their chances though and the Chiefs held on for the win.
Indeed, the victory was secured with a try after the 80 minutes through an opportunistic try from Pulu. With the Chiefs in possession at a maul inside the Sharks half up against the touchline, the hooter went and with everyone expecting Pulu to boot the ball into touch, the replacement darted down the line and crossed over for the try.
The conversion would have denied the Sharks a bonus point but Cruden hit the post from out wide.
The result sees the Chiefs regain top spot on the Super Rugby standings while the Sharks slide further down the mid-table.
Pens: Lambie 4
Tries: Cruden, Tulu
Pens: Cruden 2
Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen 14 Louis Ludik, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden 17 Wiehahn Herbst 18 Pieter-Steph du Toit 19 Jean Deysel 20 Marcell Coetzee 21 Frederic Michalak 22 Meyer Bosman.
Chiefs: 15 Andrew Horrell, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Alex Bradley, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (c), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Arizona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Robbie Robinson.
Referee: Garratt Williamson