x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Rugby union: Chiefs use fightback to retain Super 15 title

Liam Messam and replacement fullback Robbie Robinson both crossed the line for Waikato Chiefs, who also got Aaron Cruden to land one conversion and five penalties in their 27-22 victory over ACT Brumbies to take the Super 15 title.

Aaron Cruden landed a conversion and scored five penalty kicks for the Waikato Chiefs in their 27-22 victory in the Super 15 final over ACT Brumbies.
Aaron Cruden landed a conversion and scored five penalty kicks for the Waikato Chiefs in their 27-22 victory in the Super 15 final over ACT Brumbies.

CHIEFS 27

BRUMBIES 22

Chiefs Tries: Messam, Robinson; Con: Cruden; Pens: Cruden 5

Brumbies Try: Lealiifano; Con: Lealiifano; Pens: Lealiifano 5

Man of the match Christian Lealiifano (Brumbies)

 

The Waikato Chiefs came from behind to beat the ACT Brumbies 27-22 in the Super 15 final on Saturday, reinforcing their standing as the southern hemisphere's rugby powerhouse.

Liam Messam and replacement fullback Robbie Robinson both crossed the line for the Chiefs, who also got Aaron Cruden to land one conversion and five penalties.

Christian Lealiifano scored all the Brumbies points with a converted try to five penalties.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie praised his side's courage for the way they fought back when the Brumbies had command.

"It was a messy first half," he said. "They were able to get in and slow a lot of our ball and steal ball and we got sucked into trying to push too many passes. So there was real character shown in that second half. We got great impact off the bench."

In the space of seven minutes, the Chiefs produced a winning 15-point burst to become only the fourth side to win back-to-back Super titles.

Brumbies coach Jake White, who in two seasons has transformed the team from a spent force into title contenders, was disappointed to see victory slip away in the dying stages.

"Last week, we were dead and buried in the 78th minute and we ended up winning [against the Bulls], and I had a little feeling it might happen again tonight," he said.

"Obviously you have to be a bit disappointed in that. I don't want to single out players in our squad, but there were a lot of mistakes that were made when the pressure was on, and that happens in finals."

Through a quirk of the draw, the Chiefs did not play the Brumbies in the regular season and were caught off guard early by the marauding Brumbies pack, led by captain and back-row standout Ben Mowen, which kept scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow under pressure and stifled his play.

As the Brumbies worked their way through the Jake White coaching handbook, they kicked for position, put pressure on a scrambling Chiefs to draw penalties, and inside-centre Lealiifano had them 9-0 ahead inside the first quarter.

The Chiefs, favouring an expansive running game, managed to draw level through three quick penalties by Aaron Cruden,before Lealiifano produced the first try of the match.

When the Brumbies flatline defence forced the Chiefs to rush their clearance from a ruck, Lealiifano snapped up a looped pass to run 42 metres to score in the corner, and he then converted his own try.

Another Lealiifano penalty extended their lead to 19-9 immediately after half-time, and a further exchange of three-pointers with Cruden had the visitors up 22-12 before the Chiefs found top gear.

As the Brumbies began to tire, after earlier travelling to South Africa and then New Zealand in the play-offs, Liam Messam scored the Chiefs' opening try by charging around the side of a five-metre scrum.

Then replacement fullback Robinson joined on the end of Asaeli Tikoirotuma for the second try, which Cruden converted and added a further penalty.

 

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