The Gallagher Chiefs have celebrated Stephen Donald’s 100th match with a thrilling 46-31 win over the Waratahs at FMG Stadium Waikato.

In control for most of the match, the Gallagher Chiefs ran in five tries with some scintillating running rugby before the Waratahs stormed back into the contest with a big second half. But it was too little, too late as the Gallagher Chiefs’ sixth and final try sealed their tenth win of the season to keep them firmly in the playoff spots with two round robin games remaining.

An entertaining opening saw both sides keen to keep ball in hand and a couple of Gallagher Chiefs line breaks forced some good early defence from the Waratahs, but the home side managed to come away with something to show for their early attacking efforts as fullback Damian McKenzie landed a penalty to open the scoring.

A sharp response from the kick off saw the Waratahs move into the Chiefs 22, and there was a chance to tie the scores but first five Bernard Foley hit the upright with a simple penalty attempt.

From a scrum deep inside their own half the Gallagher Chiefs then broke clear down the left wing with several players involved, and loose forward Mitchell Brown received the final offload to race clear and score the first try of the evening.

McKenzie converted the Brown try and soon after added a second penalty to move the Gallagher Chiefs out to a 13-0 lead after the first quarter of play.

After conceding the initial burst of points, the Waratahs moved into Gallagher Chiefs territory but were unable to convert that into points with simple errors letting them down.

The Gallagher Chiefs on the other hand continued to look dangerous, attacking from deep at will, and soon split the Waratahs defence open for a second try. A well placed chip from centurion Stephen Donald put McKenzie into space and he drew in the last defender to send wing James Lowe away into the left hand corner.

Despite a yellow card for a foot trip, late in the half there was another good chance for the Waratahs as they slowly worked their way downfield, and with the last play Foley kicked a penalty to get the Waratahs on the scoreboard.

An electric start to the second half from the Gallagher Chiefs saw them cross the line for two outstanding tries in first three minutes.

A lineout move created space down the sideline with hooker Nathan Harris handing off to halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow who produced a sensational flick pass to find James Lowe for his second try. Lowe was involved again shortly after the restart as he sparked an attack, again down the left hand side, and three quick offloads ended with Kerr-Barlow getting over the line.

McKenzie converted both tries to blow the score out to 32-3 before the Waratahs were restored to 15 men.

As the Gallagher Chiefs looked to launch another counter attack, a wide McKenzie pass was pounced on by Waratahs centre Rob Horne who snatched an intercept try from near halfway.

The try against the run of play swung momentum in favour of the Waratahs as they followed up with a well worked try to Will Skelton – the big lock rumbling his way over from a maul close to the line.

Just as the double strike looked to have the Waratahs back into the match, more good offloading to keep the ball alive from the Gallagher Chiefs ended in a second try for Kerr-Barlow. The final pass was made by Stephen Donald which was to be his last act as he left the field to a rousing reception in his 100th Chiefs match at the 60-minute mark.

A double yellow card following some pushing and shoving, one from each forward pack, led to a scrappy period of play with both sides still showing plenty of endeavour but lacking accuracy.

Eventually there was try number three for the Waratahs as wing Cam Clark burst onto a short pass off the back of a five metre scrum to score.

From the restart the Waratahs threw caution to the wind which saw prop Sekope Kepu break clear down the right wing 60 metres out and he went on a rampaging run to score a superb individual try, and the Gallagher Chiefs' lead was suddenly cut to just eight points with still five minutes remaining.

But the late comeback effort was ended when the Gallagher Chiefs shifted quickly downfield themselves with James Lowe crossing for his hat-trick for the final scoring of a highly entertaining match.

Gallagher Chiefs 46 (James Lowe 3, Tawera Kerr-Barlow 2, Mitchell Brown tries; Damian McKenzie 5 cons, 2 pens) Waratahs 31 (Rob Horne, Will Skelton, Cam Clark, Sekope Kepu tries; Bernard Foley 4 cons, pen) HT: 18-3.

Next up for the Gallagher Chiefs is another important match up against the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Friday 9 June (kick off 7.35pm).

Hamilton Boys High School are out to defend their University Of Waikato Chiefs Cup championship title when they play Rotorua Boys High School at FMG Stadium Waikato on Saturday. The match will kick off at 2.40pm, serving as the curtain raiser to the Gallagher Chiefs vs Waratahs Round 15 Investec Super Rugby match.

The Cup final is the last match to be played in the 2017 University of Waikato Chiefs Cup, Trophy and Bowl competitions, drawing to a close four weeks of fiercely contested matches between schools across the Chiefs region.

Te Awamutu College were the victors of the University of Waikato Chiefs Bowl, coming out on top against James Cook High School 43-29 last Saturday in Te Awamutu.

St Peter’s School beat Cambridge High School in the University of Waikato Chiefs Trophy final, to win the accolade – putting in consistent performances throughout the four weeks. It is the second time they’ve won the trophy, following on from their success in 2013.

Gallagher Chiefs high performance manager Chris Tindall said: "Our Chiefs region secondary schools competition has been successful again this year in providing new competitive matches at the start of the season for 20 school First XVs across our Chiefs provincial unions. We recognise and thank the great support for the success of the Chiefs secondary schools competitions from the people involved in our provincial unions, the schools, coaches and managers, the players representing their schools with pride, and their family supporters to make the matches happen. Schools First XV rugby is a great strength of New Zealand rugby and in our Chiefs region for future Chiefs players to be identified and develop from."

The University of Waikato Chiefs Cup, Trophy and Bowl competitions continues to be an important platform to showcase the top echelon of secondary schools rugby talent within the Chiefs region. The competition provides players with the opportunity to stake their claim for selection for the Chiefs region U18 Schools development camp which takes place in early July. This camp is utilised as part of the selection process for the New Zealand Schools team.

University of Waikato Chiefs Cup final:
Hamilton Boys High School v Rotorua Boys High School, at 2:40pm on Saturday 3 June at FMG Stadium Waikato. Curtain raiser to Gallagher Chiefs v Waratahs.

Previous winners:

University of Waikato Chiefs Cup

2016: Hamilton Boys High School
2015: Rotorua Boys High School
2014: Rotorua Boys High School
2013: Hamilton Boys High School
2012: Hamilton Boys High School

University of Waikato Chiefs Trophy

2016: Hamilton Boys High School (2nd XV)
2015: Hamilton Boys High School (2nd XV)
2014: Hamilton Boys High School (2nd XV)
2013: St Peters School
2012: Thames Valley High School

University of Waikato Chiefs Bowl

2016: Pukekohe High School

Put the Waikato Draught on ice, because this Saturday fan favourite and inspirational team man Stephen ‘Beaver’ Donald will start in his 100th game for the Gallagher Chiefs. The 33-year-old will become just the fourth player in Chiefs history to achieve this rare feat, joining Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam and Hika Elliot in the exclusive milestone club.

Gallagher Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie said Donald deserves to run out in front of a vast and boisterous crowd when he takes the field against the Waratahs this Saturday.

“Stephen Donald’s already a Chiefs legend. Adored by his teammates and fans alike, he is a special and passionate Chiefs man who has had a prolific on-field career. Come and join the party, crack open a Waikato and help us raise a toast to Beaver, the hard-working good bugger” said Rennie.

The Gallagher Chiefs are thirsty for a win on home soil when they host the Waratahs at the earlier kickoff time of 5.05pm. Head coach Dave Rennie has made just two changes to the starting fifteen who recorded their first ever draw against the Blues at Eden Park last Friday. The changes see Stephen Donald don jersey 12 for his 100th match and speedster Toni Pulu start on the right wing. Of note in the reserves is the inclusion of 22-year-old Bay of Plenty hooker Liam Polwart. The former New Zealand Under 20s representative is line to make his Investec Super Rugby debut off the bench.

The sun is forecast to shine over an enthralling afternoon of rugby, kicking off at 2.40pm with Hamilton Boys High School playing Rotorua Boys High School in the University of Waikato Chiefs Cup final.

The Gallagher Chiefs team to play the Waratahs at 5.05pm this Saturday at FMG Stadium Waikato is:

1.            Kane Hames (20)

2.            Nathan Harris (26)

3.            Nepo Laulala (9)

4.            Dominic Bird (23)

5.            Brodie Retallick (82)

6.            Mitchell Brown (12)

7.            Sam Cane (co-captain) (91)

8.            Liam Messam (157)

9.            Tawera Kerr-Barlow (78)

10.         Aaron Cruden (co-captain) (84)

11.         James Lowe (48)

12.         Stephen Donald (99)

13.         Anton Lienert-Brown (36)

14.         Toni Pulu (20)

15.         Damian McKenzie (45)    

RESERVES:

16.         Liam Polwart**

17.         Siegfried Fisi’ihoi (22)

18.         Atu Moli (22)

19.         Taleni Seu (29)

20.         Mitchell Karpik (4)

21.         Jonathan Taumateine (5)

22.         Tim Nanai-Williams (82)

23.         Solomon Alaimalo (4)

() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets

**denotes Investec Super Rugby debut

Unavailable for selection: Brad Weber, Mitchell Graham, Glen Fisiiahi, Charlie Ngatai, Sam McNicol.

Stephen Donald is the ultimate teammate, so his 100th game serves as a fitting occasion to promote a very meaningful message. This Saturday the Chiefs Rugby Club is teaming up with MATES, a non-profit organisation which aims to bring kiwi communities closer together with a focus on empowering and supporting men to be positive family and community members.

The Chiefs are proud to have a long-standing relationship with MATES, so to support and raise awareness for the important work they are doing in our communities, the Gallagher Chiefs playing 23 will have ‘Be a good mate’ on the back of their warmup t-shirts in addition to other special mate-themed match day entertainment.

Tickets to this Saturday’s Round 15 fixture between the Gallagher Chiefs and the Waratahs can be purchased from ticketdirect.co.nz or 0800 4 CHIEFS.

The Gallagher Chiefs have kept their unbeaten streak against the Blues alive with a 16-16 draw at a wet Eden Park in Auckland – a first ever draw between the two local rivals.

Trailing 13-8 at halftime, the Gallagher Chiefs did well to fight their way back level, outscoring the Blues two tries to one, but late handling errors in the final few minutes from both sides prevented either team from snatching a late win.

A positive start from the Gallagher Chiefs saw them get on the scoreboard first, thanks to a well struck penalty from fullback Damian McKenzie, but Blues first five Piers Francis replied with a three-pointer of his own soon after.

The remainder of the opening quarter saw some bright moments, in particular good runs from halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow and wing Tim Nanai-Williams, but neither side threatened to add further points.

As the half wore on it was the Blues who began to assert some dominance, enjoying plenty of possession and patiently working their way downfield.

From a scrum 30 metres out the hosts then made a couple of good gains over the advantage line and were able to finish the movement off when wing Rieko Ioane burst onto a short pass from a ruck five metres out to score the first try of the evening.

Francis’ conversion from wide out was good which opened up a 10-3 lead after half an hour of play.

A brilliant take from the kick off by wing James Lowe led to the Gallagher Chiefs’ best attacking period of the half, but the Blues defended 12 phases of pressure before winning a penalty to deny the visitors an instant reply.

With two minutes remaining in the first half, Francis landed a 45 metre penalty to extend the Blues’ advantage to 10 points.

But another Gallagher Chiefs win from their own kick off, this time by lock Brodie Retallick, gave them one last chance to attack before the break. Quick ball from the ruck saw McKenzie get the ball 40 metres out and he accelerated through a hole and raced away to score a brilliant solo try.

That was to be the last play of an exciting first half with the Blues going into the break with a five-point lead.

To start the second half, it was the Blues this time who benefited from the kick off as a Gallagher Chiefs knock on ended in a penalty which Francis converted for three more points.

As heavy rain began to fall at Eden Park, a good stint on attack from the Gallagher Chiefs finished with a scrum penalty and first five Aaron Cruden made no mistake from out in front.

A slippery playing surface started to disrupt some of the accuracy, but the desperation from both teams was clear and the match began to tighten up as it headed into the final quarter.

Out of nowhere, the Gallagher Chiefs then launched a counter attack from inside their own 22. Following a turnover, Lowe initially had a kick charged down but he regathered and took off downfield. McKenzie, in at first receiver, then produced a pin point cross kick for second five Johnny Fa’auli who raced away unmarked to tie the scores.

The Gallagher Chiefs defence was called on to stop another wave of attack from the home side, and at the end of it a reasonably simple penalty attempt from Francis was pushed wide.

Another good run from McKenzie then briefly had the Gallagher Chiefs into Blues territory again, but they were unable to make it count on this occasion.

A long clearing kick from replacement Shaun Stevenson with two minutes remaining gave the Gallagher Chiefs one last chance to steal the match, but the ball was lost in contact by both sides in the closing moments with the wet conditions having the final say.

Gallagher Chiefs 16 (Damian McKenzie, Johnny Fa’auli tries; pen, Aaron Cruden pen) Blues 16 (Reiko Ioane try; Piers Francis con, 3 pens) HT: 8-13.

The Gallagher Chiefs return to FMG Stadium Waikato next weekend for their Round 15 match against the Waratahs (Saturday 3 June, kick off 5:05pm).