The Chiefs were crowned Super Rugby champions for the first time after brushing aside the Sharks 37-6 in a one-sided final on Saturday.
The Chiefs were crowned Super Rugby champions for the first time after brushing aside the toothless Sharks 37-6 in a one-sided final at Hamilton's Waikato Stadium on Saturday.
Whilst the hosts were deserved winners and full value for their win, the Sharks were always going to be at a significant disadvantage following their taxing travelling schedule – their last stop ultimately proving to be a bridge too far for the visitors.
Besides the opening 20 minutes of the game, the season finale was sadly a mis-match as the Chiefs outplayed their travel-weary South African counterparts in all facets of play. All the Sharks had to do was turn up and the Chiefs did the rest.
There wasn't any anxious moments as you would expect in a final compared to last week's two nerve-racking encounters. Instead, relaxed Chiefs fans could sit back and watch their team dismantle the opposition.
Tries by Tim Nanai-Williams, Kane Thompson, Lelia Masaga and Sonny Bill Williams ensured that the Chiefs were always well clear of their opponents.
Fly-half Aaron Cruden delivered another stunning performance and he too ensured that his side stayed in control of proceedings by knocking over all four conversions and three penalties, while the Sharks' only replies came from the boot of fly-half Frederic Michalak.
The French international was not as hot as he was during the play-offs and semis, whilst the returning Patrick Lambie also failed to hit the mark.
Tactically the Sharks dished up their poorest showing of the season while their normally solid defence crumbled as the match wore on. Then there were also a number of unforced errors that added to the team's frustration, and the previously dominant Sharks forwards were put through their paces by a powerhouse Chiefs pack.
The Sharks did enjoy the better of the opening exchanges after a JP Pietersen kick drilled the Chiefs into the corner and Ryan Kankowski stole the line-out. But their only reward was a sole penalty by Michalak before the Chiefs began to work their way into the game with superior forward power and a more accurate kicking game.
A 10-minute period of relentlessly testing the Sharks' defence ended when Chiefs centre Andrew Horrell recovered a Cruden chip kick knocked on by Lambie, and a Williams' break led to Tim Nanai-Williams scoring out wide.
Cruden landed the touchline conversion and two penalties after the Du Plessis brothers Jannie and Bismarck both infringed to have the Chiefs ahead 13-3 at half-time.
Chiefs hooker Mahonri Schwalger put his side in command at the start of the second half when he stole the kick-off from the Sharks forwards. From an attacking scrum, number eight Kane Thompson was able to pick up the ball and run through a huge gap to score the Chiefs' second try.
Replacement wing Lelia Masaga put the match firmly in the Chiefs' grasp with 20 minutes remaining when he snapped up a misdirected Keegan Daniel pass and raced 50 metres to the line, stepping deftly around Lambie on the way.
Cruden landed the conversion and a further penalty before Williams, in his final match for the Chiefs, capped off the scoring with a try in the closing minutes which he followed with a celebratory dive into the crowd.
Man of the match: Tough one! The Chiefs back three were always in the thick of it, while prop Sona Taumalolo was once again a bull-dozer on attack. But the official gong went to co-captain Liam Messam after the match, and we find it pretty hard to argue with that choice.
Moment of the match: It has to be SBW's leap of joy into the home crowd after scoring his try. A sight to behold and one never seen before as far as we can recall in the beautiful game…
Villain of the match: No yellow or red cards shown, but Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna can thank his lucky stars after his high hit on Ryan Kankowski wasn't picked up by the officials.
Tries: Nanai-Williams, Thompson, Masaga, Williams
Cons: Cruden 4
Pens: Cruden 3
Pens: Michalak 2
Chiefs: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (c), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Ben Afeaki, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Lelia Masaga.
Sharks: 15 Pat Lambie, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Paul Jordaan, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Keegan Daniel (c), 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Steven Sykes, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Riaan Viljoen.
Referee: Steve Walsh