Planet Rugby

Masaga magic for bonus Chiefs

27th February 2010 10:36

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Lelia Masaga comeback against Western Force

Back with a bang: Lelia Masaga

Lelia Masaga marked his Super 14 return with a barnstorming display in Perth, scoring in the Chiefs' four-try 37-19 win over Western Force.

Ian Foster knew he would be without star winger Sitiveni Sivivatu on Saturday, but filling his spot was a man who dominated the 2009 headlines. He may do it once again just a few months on.

One fine finish which will be put down as a team effort saw Dwayne Sweeney and Callum Bruce combine Masaga's reward before the moment of the match arrived. The powerful back busted through six Australian tacklers only to be felled inches from the whitewash as the bonus-point Chiefs enjoyed a solid second-half showing.

This one was always going to be a fairly open encounter between two teams who love to play entertaining rugby. And even with the likes of Sivivatu and Mils Muliaina nursing respective injuries, there was still plenty of talent on show.

Apart from you know who, one man/boy fitting that aforementioned bill was most certainly Wallaby starlet James O'Connor.

Building up a youngster to a point that he can never reach those heights is something we do not like to do, but with this kid the pedestal could arguably go even higher. The 19-year-old was moved forward from full-back to fly-half this week and thus given full license to direct matters. It helped the Force for large parts before Masaga turned on the style.

Stephen Donald was once again impressive from the tee with seventeen points to his name while the other scores came via number eight Colin Bourke and replacement Tim Nanai-Williams to add to hooker Hika Elliot's first-half effort.

The hosts made a bright start, with young O'Connor proving to be a lively presence at fly-half before trading penalties with Donald.

Brett Sheehan then missed a three-point effort of his own after doing well to win the penalty with an intelligent kick and chase. But it was the Chiefs who got the opening try after they capitalised by snaffling a Force lineout.

Scrum-half Brendon Leonard got hold of the ball, put in a good kick that he chased down and then set up the try beautifully as he linked with prop Nathan White and Elliot, before the hooker went over. Donald converted and then added a penalty shortly after to open up a 13-3 lead.

Sheehan trimmed that lead with a 50-metre penalty on the stroke of half-time and O'Connor kicked two more after the resumption to cut the lead to 13-12.

But All Black stand-off Donald relieved the pressure with a penalty of his own before the visitors moved clear of their hosts with an outstanding try.

As Sweeney ran across field, Bruce ran a lovely angle to straighten the attack and break through. Bruce kept his composure and found Masaga outside him, and the winger made no mistake with a fine finish. Donald converted to make it 23-12.

The Chiefs continued their charge against a tiring Force when number eight Bourke barged through Ben McCalman to score a bullocking try.

Ryan Cross intercepted a poor Chiefs pass to score a try for the Force, but even that was overshadowed when the visitors earned a bonus point as replacement full-back Nanai-Williams scored with one of the last plays of the game.

Man-of-the-match: Those two moments of brilliance from Lelia Masaga sees the Chiefs wing sneak past James O'Connor for the award. Not bad for a comeback game.

The scorers:

For Western Force:
Tries: Cross
Con: O'Connor
Pen: O'Connor 3, Sheehan

For the Chiefs:
Tries: Elliot, Masaga, Bourke, Nanai-Williams
Con: Donald 4
Pen: Donald 3

Western Force: 15 Mark Bartholomeusz, 14 Scott Staniforth, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Sam Wykes, 7 Matt Hodgson, 6 Ben McCalman, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Tom Hockings, 3 Tim Fairbrother, 2 Pek Cowan, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Tyrrell, 17 Matt Dunning, 18 Richard Stanford, 19 Luke Jones, 20 Chris O'Young, 21 Sam Harris, 22 Dane Haylett-Petty.

Chiefs: 15 Mike Delany, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Callum Bruce, 11 Dwayne Sweeney, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Colin Bourke, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Culum Retallick, 4 Romana Graham, 3 Nathan White, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Ben Afeaki, 18 Jarrad Hoeata, 19 Luke Braid , 20 Junior Poluleuligaga, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Tim Nanai-Williams.

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)

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