The Gallagher Chiefs have produced a stunning mid-week performance to record a memorable 40-7 win over Wales at FMG Stadium Waikato in what was the first ever international fixture for the Hamilton-based club.
From the outset the Gallagher Chiefs looked fired up for the unique one off fixture, with their first ever pre-game haka setting the scene, before a sharp 80 minutes of rugby resulted in what turned out to be a comfortable six tries to one victory in front of a huge and vocal home crowd.
Both sides had opportunities in the opening stages of the match, with an Anton Lienert-Brown break from inside his own 22 getting the crowd into the match, but unforced errors stopped the momentum at both ends.
A lineout steal from Chiefs debutant Mitchell Brown then thrust the home side onto attack with captain Stephen Donald taking the line on and making a half break before offloading to Brad Weber and the halfback raced away for the first points of the match.
Donald made no mistake with the conversion from in front for a 7-0 lead in as many minutes.
Wales responded by patiently working their way deep into Chiefs territory and, on the back of several dominant scrums, went desperately close to scoring before flanker Lachlan Boshier managed to win a ruck penalty which cleared the danger.
A scrappy 15 minute period followed as both teams struggled to string much together with the evening dew not helping ball handling. The Gallagher Chiefs were also forced into a couple of changes in the forward pack with injuries to prop Mitchell Graham and lock Michael Allardice seeing an early entry into the match for Siegfried Fisi’ihoi and Taleni Seu.
As the clock ticked past 30 minutes the Gallagher Chiefs won a penalty on halfway which led to 17 phases of threatening attack before Number 8 Tom Sanders eventually breached the Welsh line, barging his way over to score right under the posts. Donald converted again to make it 14-0.
The second try saw the Gallagher Chiefs grow in confidence and they swept downfield once more with Donald making the initial break, bursting onto a Weber pass, and after a charging Fisi’ihoi run Donald was adjudged to have been held up over the line.
The pressure didn’t stop there however and from the five metre scrum the ball was shifted side to side before lock Dominic Bird produced a brilliant run from 10 metres out to get his way over the line through several defenders. Donald nailed his third conversion of the night to take the lead out to 21-0.
There was a late flurry of action from Wales but some staunch Chiefs defence kept the visitors scoreless as the teams went into the break.
Wales came out fired up to start the second half and spent almost 10 minutes camped inside the host’s 22, but some outstanding defence from theGallagher Chiefs repelled wave after wave of attack.
Another period of good territory and possession followed soon after for Wales and yet again the Chiefs defence was up to the task, but it could only hold for so long with replacement front rower Kristian Dacey eventually going over in the 55th minute at the end of a strong lineout maul. First five Rhys Priestland added the extras.
With their tails up Wales marched straight back into Chiefs territory and looked almost certain to cross the line again but some desperate scrambling defence from theGallagher Chiefs was able to halt the Welsh charge.
After over a quarter of the match stuck in their own half, the Gallagher Chiefs were finally able to get their hands on the ball and shift downfield with a break from fullback James Lowe. A couple of minutes later replacement Taleni Seu picked up a loose ball and broke through two Welsh defenders with Lowe on hand to receive the final pass for the Chiefs fourth try.
Donald made it four from four with another conversion before being replaced with just over 10 minutes remaining, leaving the field to a huge ovation.
Wales continued to throw everything at the Gallagher Chiefs when they had possession but some fresh legs off the bench breathed new life into the defensive effort of the home side.
A turnover on halfway then led to another Chiefs raid into Welsh territory with Seu breaking down the sideline and chipping ahead for winger Toni Pulu who won the race to the ball for a brilliant try in the right hand corner.
There was time for one more try with two minutes remaining when Lienert-Brown placed a perfectly weighted chip over the defensive line for replacement Sam McNicol to burst onto and once he gathered the ball in he had a clear run to the line.
A rare conversion from James Lowe brought up 40 points for the Gallagher Chiefs and completed a comprehensive victory.
Gallagher Chiefs 40 (Brad Weber, Tom Sanders, Dominic Bird, James Lowe, Toni Pulu, Sam McNicol tries; Stephen Donald 4 cons, James Lowe con) Wales 7 (Kristian Dacey try; Rhys Priestland con) HT: 21-0.