Planet Rugby

Masaga gets Chiefs out of jail

14th March 2009 08:18

Share:

Liam Messam v Highlanders

Making a break: Liam Messam gives the Chiefs the front foot

A thrilling late try from Lelia Masaga handed the Chiefs an unlikely 14-10 Super 14 victory over the Highlanders in Invercargill on Saturday.

Masaga danced through four would-be tacklers with 13 minutes to go for the winning score of a match in which the dancing winger proved himself once again to be a cut above the rest.

We did at least get some fluid passages of play, in stark contrast to the last Highlanders home game. Both first-half tries were excellently-worked scores and as the teams traded late blows both got their act together and produced an exciting final 20.

Otherwise, it was a pretty ordinary affair, brightened occasionally by Masaga's thrilling running. If anyone in this tournament so far has put his hand up for an international call-up it is he. There was rarely a moment of possession from which he failed to beat a defender and his confidence to take people on is right up. He can only hope he has not peaked too early.

But it was the home side who drew first blood. With the forwards getting the upper hand, Ben Smith timed a run off Daniel Bowden's shoulder perfectly and pulled the Chiefs' defence in before firing out a long pass to Fetu'u Vainikolo - also one who always looked dangerous on the ball - and the winger raced home unopposed.

For the next quarter of an hour the game belonged to the Chiefs loose trio and Masaga, with Messam particularly outstanding for his work-rate. There could have been an equalising try for wing James Wilson off an interception, but no sooner had he got his hands on the ball than he pulled up lame with a hamstring tear.

When the try did come it was a direct result of the havoc wreaked by Masaga who twice tap-danced his way down the right hand side before Tanerau Latimer took the ball off Toby Morland to score with ease. Donald's conversion levelled matters.

We can conveniently forget about the next 40 minutes. There was a fair bit of kicking, most of it less than average which, coupled with a plethora of knock-ons, made for a spectacle in which the players ran round in herds rather than shaped sporting teams.

Referee Matt Goddard was given a fair bit of stick from the fans but he was consistent and tried his best to keep the breakdown clean, even sending David Hall and Mils Muliaina to the bin but it didn't work.

With 19 minutes to go, Goddard resorted to full penalties instead of free-kicks and hey presto! A more open and structured game! We can only hope this season is the last of the cheats' char- sorry, sanctions ELV.

Bowden goaled the first of these penalties to give his team the lead, but four minutes later Masaga took the ball wide on the right, handed off one tackler, stepped the next, handed off the third and slipped through the fourth to dive over in the right-hand corner, Stephen Donald converting majestically.

The Highlanders upped their game, with the forwards stringing together a mean run of rucks and mauls near the Chiefs 22, but one of the forwards just clung on too long on the ground and the chance went begging. Bowden also saw an easy penalty attempt go wide - again we can point to the measure of penalties instead of free-kicks as helping the game though. Bowden could have closed the gap with the kick after a good spell of pressure, the Chiefs refrained from putting their hands in with penalties being awarded where they might not have done when risking a free-kick.

But the Chiefs held, even getting together a spell of pressure of their own near the end. They couldn't manage to kill the game off, but again the Highlanders came up short when given a couple of opportunities at the end.

Man of the match: Only one candidate: Lelia Masaga. More of the same please!

The scorers:

For the Highlanders:

Try: Vainikolo

Con: Bowden

Pen: Bowden

For the Chiefs:

Tries: Latimer, Masaga

Cons: Donald 2

Yellow cards: Hall (30, Highlanders, killing the ball), Muliaina (36, Chiefs, offside - repeated infringement)

Highlanders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Jason Shoemark, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Daniel Bowden, 9 Jimmy Cowan (c), 8 Steven Setephano, 7 Tim Boys, 6 Adam Thomson,5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Clint Newland, 2 David Hall,1 Chris King.

Replacements: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Anthony Perenise, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 George Naoupu, 20 Sean Romans, 21 Matthew Berquist, 22 Kendrick Lynn/Jayden Hayward.

Chiefs: 15 Mils Muliaina (c), 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 James Wilson, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Toby Morland, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Serge Lilo, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Kevin O'Neill, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Ben May, 2 Aled de Malmanche, 1 Sona Taumalolo.

Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Joe McGougan, 18 Mark Burman, 19 Sione Lauaki, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Dwayne Sweeney.

Referee: Matt Goddard (Australia)

Touch judges: Vinny Munro (New Zealand), Josh Noonan (New Zealand)

Television match official: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)

Assessor: Arrie Schoonwinkel (South Africa)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , April 18
Harlequins vs LeicesterHarlequins vs Leicester Preview
Saturday , April 19
Exeter vs Sale15:00
Bath vs Worcester15:00
Wasps vs Gloucester15:15
Sunday , April 20
Northampton vs London Irish14:00
Newcastle vs Saracens15:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , April 18
Leinster vs Benetton TrevisoLeinster vs Benetton Treviso Preview
Glasgow vs UlsterGlasgow vs Ulster Preview
Saturday , April 19
Zebre vs Edinburgh14:30
Connacht vs Munster18:15
Sunday , April 20
Cardiff Blues vs Scarlets14:00
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Ospreys16:45
More RaboDirect PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , April 18
Castres vs MontpellierCastres vs Montpellier Preview
Saturday , April 19
Oyonnax vs Toulouse14:55
Perpignan vs Toulon17:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:30
Biarritz vs Brive18:30
Racing Metro Paris vs Clermont AuvergneRacing Metro Paris vs Clermont Auvergne Preview
Stade Francais vs Bordeaux-Begles20:35
More Top 14 fixtures
Super Rugby
Friday , April 18
Hurricanes vs BluesHurricanes vs Blues Preview
Melbourne Rebels vs Western ForceMelbourne Rebels vs Western Force Preview
Saturday , April 19
Chiefs vs CrusadersChiefs vs Crusaders Preview
Waratahs vs Bulls19:00
Sharks vs Cheetahs15:00
Stormers vs Lions17:05
More Super Rugby fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , April 13
Saracens 28 - 24 NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Report
London Irish 40 - 12 NewcastleLondon Irish vs Newcastle Report
Saturday , April 12
Worcester 33 - 38 ExeterWorcester vs Exeter Report
Leicester 27 - 15 WaspsLeicester vs Wasps Report
Gloucester 17 - 18 BathGloucester vs Bath Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Benetton Treviso 45 - 27 Newport Gwent D'gonsBenetton Treviso vs Newport Gwent D
Scarlets 27 - 20 ZebreScarlets vs Zebre Report
Munster 5 - 22 GlasgowMunster vs Glasgow Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 20 - 22 ToulonBordeaux-Begles vs Toulon Report
Toulouse 16 - 9 BriveToulouse vs Brive Report
Grenoble 30 - 36 Montpellier
Perpignan 22 - 12 Oyonnax
Bayonne 24 - 19 Stade Francais
Racing Metro Paris 37 - 7 Biarritz
More Top 14 results
Super Rugby
Chiefs 22 - 16 Melbourne RebelsChiefs vs Melbourne Rebels Report
Western Force 28 - 16 WaratahsWestern Force vs Waratahs Report
Lions 12 - 25 SharksLions vs Sharks Report
Cheetahs 31 - 52 CrusadersCheetahs vs Crusaders Report
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , April 11
Sale Sharks 12 - 27 HarlequinsSale Sharks vs Harlequins Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Ulster 58 - 12 ConnachtUlster vs Connacht Report
Edinburgh 22 - 29 Cardiff BluesEdinburgh vs Cardiff Blues Report
Ospreys 25 - 19 LeinsterOspreys vs Leinster Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Top 14
Clermont Auvergne 23 - 11 CastresClermont Auvergne vs Castres Report
More Top 14 results
Super Rugby
Highlanders 27 - 20 BullsHighlanders vs Bulls Report
Reds 20 - 23 BrumbiesReds vs Brumbies Report
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens1976
2Northampton1966
3Leicester Tigers1963
4Bath1959
5Harlequins1954