The Gallagher Chiefs have come away from nib Stadium in Perth with a hard fought 16-7 win over the Western Force.

With the scores tied 7-all at halftime, three second half penalties from first five Aaron Cruden was enough to push the Gallagher Chiefs clear for their seventh win from eight games.

There was a good tempo to the game early on with both teams moving the ball well and the Gallagher Chiefs showing some positive signs on attack right from the opening whistle.

After an early penalty miss from the Force, the Gallagher Chiefs struck the first blow of the match as Cruden split the defence up the middle from a kick return which ended in a try to Liam Messam, converted by Cruden.

Both sides continued to have their moments throughout the opening quarter but a missed long range penalty attempt from fullback Damian McKenzie was the closest the Gallagher Chiefs came to more points.

With the Gallagher Chiefs unable to extend their lead the home side grew in confidence. A line out drive ten metres from the line resulted in a Force try to loose forward Matt Hodgson, and halfback Ian Prior’s conversion tied the scores.

As halftime approached the Gallagher Chiefs finished strongly and eventually found their way over the line, thanks to prop Ziggy Fisi’ihoi, but the try was ruled by the TMO for a knock on over the line.

The teams headed into the break locked up at 7-all with the Gallagher Chiefs left rueing a high number of turnovers and handling errors.

Cruden got the second half started on the right foot as he knocked over a straight forward three-pointer just a couple of minutes after the resumption of play to nudge the visitors in front once more.

A knock on from the restart by replacement halfback Finlay Christie then gave the Force a golden opportunity to hit back but the Gallagher Chiefs defence survived.

McKenzie was in fine form all evening and he sparked another Gallagher Chiefs counter attack, with handling errors at crucial times again letting the visitors down. But momentum was now all with the Gallagher Chiefs and in the 55th minute Cruden kicked his second penalty of the night to push the lead out to six points.

A much needed period on attack for the Force followed the Cruden penalty, but they were greeted by some in-your-face Gallagher Chiefs defence, led by Sam Cane.

After swinging back downfield, a massive Gallagher Chiefs scrum won them a penalty in a handy position for Cruden to chip over another penalty for some further breathing space – a nine-point advantage with just 13 minutes left.

In the final 10 minutes the Gallagher Chiefs looked likely to seal the match, threatening inside the Force 22 on several occasions, and were again denied by the TMO with a try to replacement Stephen Donald correctly ruled out due to a knock on in the lead up.

Some more rock solid defence then put a stop to the final attacking effort from the Force and the Gallagher Chiefs finished their three-week road trip with four more competition points.

Gallagher Chiefs 16 (Liam Messam try; Aaron Cruden con, 3 pens) Western Force 7 (Matt Hodgson try; Ian Prior con) HT: 7-7.

After three weeks on the road the Gallagher Chiefs return home to FMG Stadium Waikato for their Round 10 match against the Sunwolves next Saturday (April 29, kick off 7.35pm). Tickets are available from http://www.ticketdirect.co.nz/event/details/153986/gallagher-chiefs-v-sunwolves.

Seven games, six victories, 27 tries and 29 competition points – with Round 9 marking the midpoint of the 2017 Investec Super Rugby regular season, the Gallagher Chiefs can draw confidence from their performances to date as they prepare to take on a highly-motivated Western Force lineup in Perth this weekend.

Saturday’s game is the final fixture of the Gallagher Chiefs three-week international tour. In Round 7, the team suffered their only defeat of the season thus far, losing 34-26 to the DHL Stormers in Cape Town. The Gallagher Chiefs showed remarkable composure a week later against the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, returning from the halftime break 10 points down to run in four unanswered tries and record a 41-27 win over the home side.

Gallagher Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has made four changes to the starting fifteen that fronted the Cheetahs last Saturday. In the forwards, there’s just one change to the front row with Siegfried Fisi’ihoi being promoted from the reserves to start at loosehead prop. Dominic Bird rekindles his partnership with Brodie Retallick in the second row, while Liam Messam will start this week at blindside flanker.

There’s just one change in the backs with Shaun Stevenson moving from the bench to start on the right wing. Of note in the reserves is the inclusion of former New Zealand Under 20s representative Aidan Ross. The 21-year old Bay of Plenty prop is in line to make his Investec Super Rugby debut off the bench.

The Gallagher Chiefs team to play the Western Force at 9.45pm (NZT) Saturday is:
1. Siegfried Fisi’ihoi (18)
2. Brayden Mitchell (3)
3. Atu Moli (18)
4. Dominic Bird (18)
5. Brodie Retallick (78)
6. Liam Messam (152)
7. Sam Cane (86)
8. Michael Leitch (28)
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (74)
10. Aaron Cruden (co-captain) (80)
11. James Lowe (43)
12. Anton Lienert-Brown (31)
13. Sam McNicol (13)
14. Shaun Stevenson (14)
15. Damian McKenzie (40)

RESERVES:

16. Hika Elliot (111)
17. Aidan Ross**
18. Sosefo Kautai (2)
19. Taleni Seu (24)
20. Lachlan Boshier (12)
21. Finlay Christie (4)
22. Stephen Donald (95)
23. Toni Pulu (19)

() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets
**denotes Investec Super Rugby debut

Unavailable for selection: Brad Weber, Mitchell Graham, Nathan Harris, James Tucker, Glen Fisiiahi, Tim Nanai-Williams, Liam Polwart, Michael Allardice, Nepo Laulala, Johnny Faauli and Mitchell Brown.

The international travel abates somewhat for the Gallagher Chiefs following Saturday’s match against the Western Force in Perth. Barring their Round 13 contest against the BNZ Crusaders in Fiji, the team’s remaining six regular season games all take place on New Zealand soil, beginning with the Gallagher Chiefs historic clash against the Sunwolves at FMG Stadium Waikato on 29 April.

The Gallagher Chiefs have recorded a superb come from behind win at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, coming back from 24-0 down to score six tries and beat the Cheetahs 41-27.

 

After conceding three tries in the opening quarter, the Gallagher Chiefs slowly found their feet and kicked on to produce an impressive second half display, with two tries in the final five minutes securing a bonus point victory which takes them past the Hurricanes into second spot in the New Zealand conference.

 

A bright start from the home side saw them threaten on more than one occasion, and they deservedly grabbed an early lead thanks to a penalty from first five Niel Marais.

 

More good territory for the Cheetahs applied pressure on the Gallagher Chiefs defence and their positive play was rewarded when Raymond Rhule came in off his left wing to score next to the posts off a pass from halfback Shaun Venter.

 

With the early momentum in their favour, it wasn’t long before the Cheetahs found themselves in another good attacking position. They went back to the lineout maul that had already proven effective, and this time resulted in their second try of the afternoon to hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld.

 

Marais added the extras to stretch the early lead out to 17 points in as many minutes.

 

The onslaught continued with the Cheetahs in again just minutes later. Some brilliant ball retention, keeping the play alive whenever possible, had the Gallagher Chiefs defence back-peddling and eventually it was centre Francois Venter who finished off with most of the team involved in the build up play.

 

Marais made no mistake from in front to take the score out to 24-0 after just 22 minutes of play.

 

After defending for virtually the entire first quarter, the Gallagher Chiefs didn’t take long to respond once they finally got their hands on the ball and wing Toni Pulu scored with a slick one handed finish just inside the right hand touchline.

 

The final 10 minutes of the first half saw plenty more entertaining rugby with both sides lacking the finishing touches, until the Gallagher Chiefs struck a crucial blow right on halftime when Pulu crashed over for his second try, following on from his double last weekend.

 

Cruden’s second conversion narrowed the deficit to 10 points as the teams went into the halftime break.

 

The Cheetahs started the second half much like the first, with a sustained period on attack testing the Gallagher Chiefs defence, and a yellow card to prop Kane Hames made the task even more difficult for the visitors.

 

With half an hour remaining the Cheetahs extended their lead out with a second penalty from Marais but that was immediately wiped out by a three-pointer at the other end from Cruden.

 

Still with a man in the sin bin, the Gallagher Chiefs managed to move downfield and, after initial runs from Damian McKenzie and Sam McNicol, halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow burst clear to score which brought the Chiefs to within five points.

The Gallagher Chiefs made it a double strike soon after as they moved the ball with urgency from side to side which created space down the left for wing James Lowe to cross the line. Cruden’s conversion put the Gallagher Chiefs in front for the first time in the match.

 

As the match moved into the final 15 minutes it was the Cheetahs who began to look dangerous once again. Some good continuity of possession tested the Gallagher Chiefs defence but they did enough to deny each attacking movement.

 

Replacement Fred Zeilinga had a chance to put the Cheetahs back in front with a tricky penalty attempt on the angle, but it drifted just wide.

 

Somewhat against the run of play then came the killer blow as Cruden took play down the short side and placed a well weighted kick over the top which sat up perfectly for replacement wing Shaun Stevenson who ran the final 20 metres to score.

 

A desperate Cheetahs side threw caution to the wind in the final moments, looking to run the ball out from their own line, and some rush defence from the Gallagher Chiefs forced a handling error with replacement hooker Hika Elliot on hand to score a simple try and seal the bonus point win.

 

Gallagher Chiefs 41 (Toni Pulu 2, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, James Lowe, Shaun Stevenson, Hika Elliot tries; Aaron Cruden 4 cons, pen) Cheetahs 27 (Raymond Rhule, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Francois Venter tries; Niel Marais 3 cons, 2 pens) HT: 14-24.

 

The road trip continues for the Gallagher Chiefs as they visit the Force in Perth on Saturday 22 April (9.45pm NZ time) before returning home to FMG Stadium Waikato to take on the Sunwolves the following Saturday evening.

The Gallagher Chiefs are determined to finish their South African tour on a winning note when they take on the Cheetahs at 3.05pm this Saturday in Bloemfontein. Co-captain Sam Cane is fully recovered from the concussion he sustained in his sides game against the Bulls two weeks ago and will start at openside flanker. 

 

Cane is one of six changes to the starting fifteen which lost 34-26 to a challenging Stormers side last Saturday in Cape Town, their first defeat of the 2017 Investec Super Rugby season. In the forwards, Brayden Mitchell earns his first start for the Gallagher Chiefs at hooker, while Taleni Seu is promoted from the bench to join Brodie Retallick in the second row. Mitchell Brown returns to the starting fifteen to wear jersey 6. 

 

In the backs, Anton Lienert-Brown shifts from centre to second five-eighth, with Sam McNicol making his first start for the season in jersey 13. Of note in the reserves is the inclusion of 20-year-old Tasman back  Alex Nankivell. The young midfielder made his Investec Super Rugby debut against the Stormers last Saturday, after joining the 23 as a late replacement for his Tasman teammate Finlay Christie. Christie had to withdraw from the match due to illness, but is back to full health this week and ready to add impact off the bench in jersey 21.

 

Following Saturdays Round 8 fixture, the Gallagher Chiefs head to Perth to take on the Western Force, before returning home to face the Sunwolves for the first time ever at FMG Stadium Waikato on 29 April.

 

The Gallagher Chiefs team to play the Cheetahs at 1.05am Sunday (NZT) is:

1.            Kane Hames (15)

2.            Brayden Mitchell (2)

3.            Atu Moli (17)

4.            Taleni Seu (23)

5.            Brodie Retallick (77)

6.            Mitchell Brown (7)

7.            Sam Cane (co-captain) (85)

8.            Michael Leitch (27)

9.            Tawera Kerr-Barlow (73)

10.         Aaron Cruden (co-captain) (79)

11.         James Lowe (42)

12.         Anton Lienert-Brown (30)

13.         Sam McNicol (13)

14.         Toni Pulu (18)

15.         Damian McKenzie (39)     

RESERVES:

16.         Hika Elliot (110)

17.         Siegfried Fisi’ihoi (17)

18.         Sosefo Kautai (1)

19.         Dominic Bird (17)

20.         Liam Messam (151)

21.         Finlay Christie (3)

22.         Alex Nankivell (1)

23.         Shaun Stevenson (13)

 

() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets

 

Unavailable for selection: Brad Weber, Mitchell Graham, Nathan Harris, James Tucker, Glen Fisiiahi, Chase Tiatia, Charlie Ngatai, Tim Nanai-Williams, Liam Polwart, Michael Allardice, Nepo Laulala and Johnny Faauli.