After last week's loss to the Hurricanes, the Gallagher Chiefs have got back to winning ways in style with a comfortable 36-12 bonus point victory over the Reds at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

After jumping out to a 24-0 lead at halftime following a dominant first 40 minutes, the Chiefs outscored the home side five tries to two to earn five more competition points which keeps them right in the mix at the top of the New Zealand conference at the halfway point in the competition.

The opening 10 minutes saw the Chiefs enjoy nearly all of the possession and territory but some composed defence from the home side restricted the damage to just a penalty kick from first five Damian McKenzie.

However, as the Chiefs continued to string phases together on attack the gaps began to open up and, after turning down another shot at goal to opt for a lineout, lock Tyler Ardron was able to dive over under the posts for the first try of the evening.

Not long after the restart the Chiefs broke out from inside their own half with McKenzie sprinting clear after an offload from second five Johnny Fa'auli, and his wide pass found Solomon Alaimalo but the winger lost the ball over the line.

From the resulting scrum, the Chiefs were able to win possession back and a few phases later fullback Charlie Ngatai ran a nice line, hitting a gap from a McKenzie pass to stroll over and score.

McKenzie's conversion made it a healthy 17-point lead after just 18 minutes.

As the match headed into the second quarter McKenzie was ruled out for the remainder of the match with a head knock, replaced by his brother Marty, to put a dampener on the Chiefs' great start.

The Chiefs slowly but surely worked their way downfield once more, continuing to control the ball and giving the Reds very little time in possession, and eventually the pressure was too much as Brodie Retallick charged his was over the line after a nice run from halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.

The onslaught looked set to continue as a line break and offload from Ardron set up what would have been a fourth Chiefs try to Tahuriorangi, but the final pass was forward.

In the last minute of the first half, the home fans finally had something to cheer about as the Reds launched their first meaningful attack of the match, but a stray pass was thrown into touch and the Chiefs took their convincing 24-0 lead into the break.

It took the Chiefs just two minutes to pick up where they left off in the second half, as Alaimalo cut through the defensive line and found hooker Liam Polwart on the left wing who broke the tackle of the cover defence and scored.

The response from the Reds was just what they desperately needed, as a penalty saw them work their way inside the Chiefs 22 and, following a few controlled phases, centre Samu Kerevi scored in the left-hand corner.

Several early substitutions from Reds coach Brad Thorn then added some further energy into what was an improved second half effort, but handling errors let them down and allowed the Chiefs to soak up the pressure reasonably comfortably.

Reds Number 8 Caleb Timu looked to have scored their second try after a strong run, but the TMO adjudged he lost the ball as he looked to force it against the base of the goalpost.

As the match limped towards its conclusion with what was a very scrappy final quarter, out of nowhere Kerevi picked up a loose pass and burst through a half gap to score his second try of the match.

Despite the Chiefs never being under any scoreboard pressure after their early flurry of points, Kerevi's second try saw them outscoring the Chiefs in the second half at that point, which was good reward for a strong fightback.

The Chiefs worked hard in the closing stages as they went in search of a fifth try to secure a bonus point, and a composed lineout drive in the 85th minute eventually ended with replacement hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho dotting down to end the match in style.

Gallagher Chiefs 36 (Tyler Ardron, Charlie Ngatai, Brodie Retallick, Liam Polwart, Samisoni Taukei'aho tries; Damian McKenzie 2 cons, pen, Marty McKenzie 2 cons) Reds 12 (Samu Kerevi 2 tries; Jono Lance con) HT: 24-0.

The Gallagher Chiefs now get a bye week before returning to action against the Jaguares at Rotorua International Stadium on Friday 4 May.

The Gallagher Chiefs are ready for their first trans-Tasman clash of the season when they take on the Reds in Brisbane this weekend, who will be putting it all on the line in Queensland Rugby Union’s 1000th rugby match.

Head Coach Colin Cooper is aware of this weeks’ challenge.

“Playing the Reds in Brisbane will be a tough assignment, and we’ve worked really hard with the leaders on having the right mindset. The Reds have a number of threats, with their loose forwards, midfielders and outside backs all big carriers of the ball. We need to put everything on the line for this game, with a bit of a break coming in the form of a bye next week“.

Cooper has made four changes to his forward pack, starting the impressive Karl Tu’inukuafe and Liam Polwart, and bringing back Tyler Ardron and Pita Gus Sowakula who both put in outstanding shifts in the home NZ derby against the Blues.The backline is unchanged. 

On the bench, Samisoni Taukei’aho gets his first opportunity of the season, and Sam Prattley - who has been brought in this week as an interim injury replacement - is in line to make his Gallagher Chiefs debut, bringing over 30 Super Rugby caps of experience to the side. Brad Weber makes a return into the 23, now recovered from his wrist injury.

Cooper is not discouraged about last weeks’ loss to conference leaders the Hurricanes.

“Coming off a loss makes us more determined. We were disappointed with the conversion rate of the line breaks, but the good thing about that game is that there were opportunities, but we just didn’t finish them”

The game will be played at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane and kicks off at 9:45pm NZT.

The Gallagher Chiefs team to take on the Reds is:

1. Karl Tu’inukuafe (6)

2. Liam Polwart (13)

3. Angus Ta’avao (7)

4. Brodie Retallick (91)

5. Tyler Ardron (4)

6. Lachlan Boshier (26)

7. Sam Cane (102) co-captain

8. Pita Gus Sowakula (2)

9. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (7)

10. Damian McKenzie (57)

11. Solomon Alaimalo (16)

12. Johnny Fa'auli (13)

13. Anton Lienert-Brown (47)

14. Sean Wainui (7)

15. Charlie Ngatai (46) co-captain

16. Samisoni Taukei’aho (2)

17. Sam Prattley *

18. Jeff Thwaites (4)

19. Luke Jacobson (4)

20. Liam Messam (169)

21. Brad Weber (47) 

22. Marty McKenzie (12)

23. Alex Nankivell (7)

Players unavailable for selection: 

Aidan Ross, Atu Moli, Dominic Bird, Fin Hoeata, Kane Hames, Mitch Brown, Mitch Graham, Nepo Laulala, Regan Verney, Sam McNicol, Shaun Stevenson, Taleni Seu, Tim Nanai-Williams, Toni Pulu

The University of Waikato (UoW) Chiefs Taua Development team arrived in Hong Kong yesterday for an exciting tour, under the high performance partnership formed between the Chiefs Rugby Club and the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU). The UoW Chiefs Taua Development team returns to Hong Kong for a fourth consecutive year following successful previous tours.

The tour includes the UoW Chiefs Taua Development team having training sessions with the Hong Kong national squad and playing a match against a Hong Kong national XV on Saturday 21 April at the Hong Kong Football Club, before returning on Monday 23 April. The UoW Chiefs Taua Development players will also participate in community engagement coaching events during their stay, together with the HKRU for young players from their Youth and Mini Rugby programmes.

Chiefs High Performance Manager Chris Tindall said: “It is exciting to again return to Hong Kong with a UoW Chiefs Taua Development team to further our rugby development and performance together with the Hong Kong Rugby Union. The tour to Hong Kong is a special opportunity for our players’ learning and development, to experience international touring and full time preparation on and off the field, and to train with and play against the Hong Kong national squad. Added to that, Hong Kong is a great city to experience. This tour provides a real opportunity for the players to impress on and off the field for Chiefs selection, as players have done from the tours over the last three years.”

Previous UoW Chiefs Taua Development players who have progressed from the Hong Kong tours to play for the Gallagher Chiefs are: Shaun Stevenson, Atu Moli, Liam Polwart, Mitchell Brown, Sefo Kautai, Aidan Ross, Samisoni Taukei’aho and Luteru Laulala.

“Part of our tour focus is to further assist the Hong Kong national squad and coaches in their preparation for the Asia Rugby Championship and Rugby World Cup qualification matches this year. It’s an exciting performance goal for Hong Kong Rugby, and they have been building positively towards it.” added Tindall.

The UoW Chiefs Taua Development touring squad of 27 players was selected from available players in co-ordination with the Chiefs region Provincial Unions of Counties Manukau, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Taranaki. It includes a mix of developing and experienced players led by 2017 Gallagher Chiefs players, James Tucker - who has just returned from playing a season in Italy - and Seb Siataga.

Five players return to Hong Kong from the touring squad last year: Prop, Ayden Johnstone and Joshua Iosefo-Scott; Loose Forward, Ajay Lafaele-Mua; Halfback, Luke Campbell; Midfielder, Matthew Lansdown. The squad also includes five 2017 New Zealand Schools representative players: Prop, Ollie Norris and George Dyer; Lock, Tupou Vai’i; Midfielder, Quinn Tupaea; Wing, Kini Naholo.

The touring squad also includes three players from the Kobelco Steelers club in Japan who have been training with the Gallagher Chiefs under the High Performance partnership between the Chiefs Rugby Club and the Kobelco Steelers: Prop, Takayuki Watanabe; Hooker, Kasuke Nishibayashi; First Five-Eighth, Akihiro Shimizo. 

The UoW Chiefs Taua Development squad will be coached by Paul Hodder as Head Coach, with past Chiefs Rugby Club player Nathan White and current Gallagher Chiefs player Tim Nanai–Williams as Assistant Coaches.

 

The UoW Chiefs Taua Development touring squad to Hong Kong is:

Props

Ayden Johnstone (Waikato)

Ollie Norris (Waikato)

Joshua Iosefo-Scott (Waikato)

Takayuki Watanabe (Kobelco Steelers)

George Dyer (Waikato)

Hookers

Donald Maka (Taranaki)

Seb Siataga (Bay of Plenty)

Kasuke Nishibayashi (Kobelco Steelers)

Locks

James Tucker (Waikato) (c)

Sam Caird (Waikato)

Tupou Vai’i (Taranaki)

Loose Forwards

Stan van der Hoven (Bay of Plenty)

Fotu Lokotui (Counties Manukau)

Joe Johnson (Bay of Plenty)

Ajay Lafaele-Mua (Bay of Plenty)

Halfbacks

Luke Campbell (Bay of Plenty)

Isaac Te Aute (Bay of Plenty)

First Five-Eighth

Daniel Waite (Taranaki)

Akihiro Shimizo (Kobelco Steelers)

Midfield

Matthew Lansdown (Waikato)

Quinn Tupaea (Waikato)

Nigel Ah Wong (Counties Manukau)

Sam Furniss (Counties Manukau)

Outside Backs

Isaac Te Tamaki (Waikato)

Mosese Dawai (Waikato)

Kini Naholo (Taranaki)

Bailey Simonsson (Bay of Plenty)

 

The UoW Chiefs Taua Development Squad players not available for the tour are:  

Jeff Thwaites (Bay of Plenty), Baden Wardlaw (Bay of Plenty), Jesse Parete (Taranaki), Bailyn Sullivan (Waikato), Declan O’Donnell (Taranaki), Luteru Laulala (Counties Manukau), Reuben O’Neill (Taranaki), Jared Profit (Taranaki), Jacob Skeen (Waikato), Matt Vai’i (Counties Manukau), Mitchell Jacobson (Waikato), Jahrome Brown (Waikato), Terrence Hepetema (Bay of Plenty), Sheldon Tovio (Waikato), Tyler Campbell (Waikato), Tevita Mafileo (Bay of Plenty), Suetena Asomua (Counties Manukau), Bradley Slater (Taranaki), Laghlan McWhannell (Waikato), Tom Florence (Taranaki), Xavier Roe (Waikato), Ciarahn Matoe (Taranaki), Kaleb Trask (Bay of Plenty).

 

The 2018 University of Waikato Chiefs Development Squad Management Team for the Hong Kong tour is:

Head Coach Paul Hodder
Assistant Coach Nathan White
Assistant Coach Tim Nanai-Williams
Manager Gareth Duncan
Trainer Brad Mayo
Physio Teresa Te Tamaki
Analyst Jared Christie
Player Development Manager Kent Currie
High Performance Manager Chris Tindall

The Gallagher Chiefs have been unable to make it three straight New Zealand derby wins, going down to the Hurricanes 25-13 in a tough and physical contest at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

After a tight first 40 minutes, two quick Hurricanes tries to start the second half swung the game in their favour and launched them towards a three tries to one victory. The Chiefs second loss of the season sees them remain in third spot in the New Zealand conference standings, with the Hurricanes' sixth win moving them to the top.

The Hurricanes enjoyed the better of an entertaining start to the match, with a favourable penalty count seeing them go close to scoring on a couple of occasions.

They eventually cracked the Chiefs defence with second five Ngani Laumape offloading to a rampaging Ben Lam, and the big winger burst through several tackles with a combination of power and speed from 40 metres out to score a brilliant opening try.

From the restart, the Chiefs won a penalty and were able to get on the scoreboard from the boot of first five Damian McKenzie to settle them down after the fast start from the home side.

Fullback Jordie Barrett responded for the Hurricanes with his own three-pointer soon after, making it 10-3 after a frenetic opening 15 minutes.

The middle of the first half was dominated by a lot of stoppages, including a bad ankle injury to Chiefs prop Aidan Ross that delayed the game for around 10 minutes.

Both sides continued to be adventurous on attack but with the stop start nature of the match, neither was able to apply much pressure when in possession.

The Chiefs looked the stronger of the sides in the final 10 minutes of the half, and deservedly narrowed the gap to four points with McKenzie's second penalty right on the stroke of halftime, after he had missed a shot from in front a few minutes earlier.

It was a perfect start to the second half for the Hurricanes as they struck twice in the opening five minutes, with All Blacks first five Beauden Barrett playing a key role in both tries, to suddenly open up a 16-point lead.

A superb pick up from a loose Chiefs pass by Barrett saw him break clear, kick ahead and dot down for the first, and he then set up the second with a cross kick for Laumape.

The Hurricanes were now full of confidence and looked likely to add further points, but the Chiefs were able to weather the storm and slowly worked their way back downfield.

Desperately needing to be the next team to score, a patient build up ended in loose forward Lachlan Boshier finding himself in space on the left wing and he crossed the line for the Chiefs first try of the match.

McKenzie's sideline conversion brought the Chiefs to within nine points, getting them back into the contest as the match headed into the final quarter.

Shortly after the restart, a long-range break from outside backs Solomon Alaimalo and Charlie Ngatai swung the Chiefs back into the Hurricanes 22 once more. This time they were unable to convert but the signs were positive that they were beginning to threaten the Hurricanes defence more frequently.

However, errors began to creep in to the Chiefs play as they chased the game, still needing to score twice to get back in front, and the Hurricanes showed their class as their defence began to tighten up late in the match.

The Chiefs dominated a scrappy and frustrating final 10 minutes, but were just unable to apply the finishing touches, and the home side maintained their composure to close the game out with a Jordie Barrett penalty right on fulltime.

Gallagher Chiefs 13 (Lachlan Boshier try; Damian McKenzie con, 2 pens) Hurricanes 25 (Ben Lam, Beauden Barrett, Ngani Laumape tries; Jordie Barrett 2 cons, 2 pens) HT: 6-10.

The Gallagher Chiefs now head over the Tasman for a clash with the Reds at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday 21 April, kick off 9.45pm NZ time.

The Gallagher Chiefs face the Hurricanes this weekend in Wellington, the only New Zealand conference team the Gallagher Chiefs have yet to play so far this season. Both teams come into it with one opening round loss each, and five consecutive wins each.

Head Coach Colin Cooper says that the team is in a good space for this upcoming challenge.

“There is real clarity, consistency of game plan and of selection, and competition going on in the group. When you combine all of that with winning, it gives you confidence.

Looking at our first game, we didn’t respond well to the pressure that the Crusaders put on us, whereas last week in the Blues game, we didn’t panic, our leaders took control and we just dug out a win against a dangerous Blues team. That was a big change for us to see as coaches.”

Cooper has made just two changes to the starting fifteen this week, with Taleni Seu back at number 8, and Co-Captain Charlie Ngatai resuming action at fullback, with Solomon Alaimalo moving to the wing in place of the injured Toni Pulu. Alex Nankivell is on the bench again this week after a return from having his appendix removed.

Cooper is aware of what the Hurricanes can bring.

“Strategically, we understand that they are very expansive, with a good kicking and running game. We need to have the confidence to play our game when we have the ball. It’s important to do the work in the week and then when it comes to the game to be calm and controlled about it.”

The Gallagher Chiefs team to take on the Hurricanes is:

1. Aidan Ross (12)

2. Nathan Harris (37)

3. Angus Ta’avao-Matau (6)

4. Brodie Retallick (90)

5. Tyler Ardron (4) / Michael Allardice (24) 

6. Lachlan Boshier (25)

7. Sam Cane (co-captain) (101)

8. Taleni Seu (33)

9. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (6) 

10. Damian McKenzie (56) / Marty McKenzie (11)

11. Solomon Alaimalo (15)

12. Johnny Faauli (12)

13. Anton Lienert-Brown (46) 

14. Sean Wainui (6)

15. Charlie Ngatai (co-captain) (45)

 

16. Liam Polwart (12)

17. Karl Tu’inukuafe (5)

18. Jeff Thwaites (3)

19. Luke Jacobson (3)

20. Liam Messam (168)

21. Jonathan Taumateine (7) 

22. Marty McKenzie (11) / Tiaan Falcon (2)

23. Alex Nankivell (6)

A dramatic penalty try with just six minutes remaining has seen the Gallagher Chiefs scrape past the Blues 21-19 at FMG Stadium Waikato for their fifth straight win of the 2018 Investec Super Rugby season.

In their second local derby against the Blues this season, the Gallagher Chiefs dominated possession and territory but found themselves trailing late in the match until their dominant scrum, with a one-man advantage, was eventually awarded what turned out to be a match winning penalty try in the 74th minute.

Early on saw a positive start for the visitors, right from the opening kick-off, as they won a ruck penalty with first five Stephen Perofeta stepping up and making no mistake from in front for an early lead.

This was followed by some controlled possession from the Blues, as they clearly looked determined to make amends for some poor recent performances, and the period of play ended in another penalty for Perofeta from 40 metres out to give his side a 6-0 lead after the opening five minutes.

Like they have done all season, the Gallagher Chiefs responded well to conceding points, and they charged downfield to put pressure on the Blues defence for the first time in the match. A penalty was eventually conceded by the Blues and first five Damian McKenzie got the home side on the scoreboard with his first kick of the night.

More good territory for the Chiefs saw them launch a set piece play from midfield, with fullback Solomon Alaimalo testing the defence before McKenzie showed quick hands with a pass over the top that put Sean Wainui into space, and the in-form winger had a clear run to the line.

The Wainui try saw momentum shift in the Chiefs favour and they dominated the middle stages of the first half, adding a further three points from the boot of McKenzie.

As they struggled to get their hands on the ball the Blues defence was forced to soak up a lot of pressure, before a timely break from Perofeta saw them get down the right end of the field which ended in another penalty kick, and the gap was closed to 11-9 with 12 minutes remaining in the first half.

A brilliant take from the restart by Chiefs lock Tyler Ardron then saw the Chiefs move back inside the Blues 22 and the five-point lead was quickly restored with another McKenzie penalty.

That was to be one of the last acts for McKenzie as he left the field soon after with what looked like a hip injury, replaced by his brother Marty.

With the Chiefs looking to be taking control, the Blues were finally able to get some good field position and against the run of play hooker James Parsons crashed his way over the line.

Perofeta's conversion put the visitors back in front and, with some new found confidence, they worked their way back into Chiefs territory in the final stages of the half and had time for a fourth Perofeta penalty to go into the break with a surprise 19-14 lead.

After a stop start beginning to the second half, a strong break from a kick return by Chiefs Number 8 Pita Gus Sowakula sparked his side into action. However, despite three consecutive penalties and lineout drives close to the line for the Chiefs, some desperate Blues defence saw them hang on and clear the danger.

It wasn't long before the Chiefs were on the attack again, but yet again they were denied by a combination of ball handling and a dedicated scrambling defence, as the match ticked past the three-quarter mark with no points added for either side in the second half.

With some timely substitutions bringing fresh legs into the forward pack, the Chiefs continued to ask questions and the relentless pressure eventually led to a yellow card for Blues lock Josh Goodhue for repeated infringements close to the line.

Following the sin binning was a dramatic period of play as three consecutive dominant scrums by the Chiefs ended in a penalty try for the first points of the second half, with the seven points seeing them go ahead by two with six minutes left.

After enjoying nearly 90% of territory in the second half, the Chiefs were able to continue that dominance and edged back downfield to close the game out with 24 controlled phases before Marty McKenzie cleared to touch to seal the victory.

Gallagher Chiefs 21 (Sean Wainui try, penalty try; Damian McKenzie 3 pens) Blues 19 (James Parsons try; Stephen Perofeta con, 4 pens) HT: 14-19.

Next up for the Gallagher Chiefs is a trip to Wellington to take on the Hurricanes on Friday 13 April in what promises to be another huge New Zealand conference clash.

The Gallagher Chiefs are back in action at home this Saturday, after coming off an impressive 27-22 win against the Highlanders last Friday.

Even though the home team have four consecutive wins under their belt, they are not underestimating their northern rivals, the Blues, in what promises to be a true Battle of the Bombays this Saturday at FMG Stadium Waikato.

Head Coach Colin Cooper sees this as a very important match.

“There is a great rivalry between the Chiefs and the Blues, and this time it is in our Whare (house). The Blues are going to bring everything - they’ll be coming with a lot of passion this weekend.”

Cooper has made three changes to the starting fifteen from the hard fought victory over the Highlanders last weekend. The tight five is again unchanged, Lachlan Boshier coming back into the number 6 jersey, co-Captain and now centurion Sam Cane staying put in the number 7 jersey, and Pita Gus Sowakula crashing his way into the starting lineup after a strong debut off the bench last week. In the backline Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi gets a start at halfback, with Jonathan Taumateine backing him up in the number 21 jersey.

Cooper wants his players to be focussed and to become more consistent within each game.

“We’ve shown a lot of heart which is great, but we just need to make sure that we play a bit smarter. The Blues will be dangerous. We need to make sure that we have our structures right, our attitude right, and play the game we know we can play. They are great ball carriers so we need to make sure that we tackle well and that our defence systems work.”

The last time the teams met was in a gruelling derby at Eden Park in Round Three. The Gallagher Chiefs battled to a 27-21 victory which went right down to the wire. This upcoming clash will be just as tough.  

Kickoff for this crucial New Zealand derby is at 7.35pm on Saturday night at FMG Stadium Waikato.

The Gallagher Chiefs team to take on the Blues is:

1. Aidan Ross (11)

2. Nathan Harris (36)

3. Angus Ta’avao (5)

4. Brodie Retallick (89)

5. Tyler Ardron (3)

6. Lachlan Boshier (24)

7. Sam Cane (100) (c)

8. Pita Gus Sowakula (1)

9. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (5)

10. Damian McKenzie (55)

11. Sean Wainui (5)

12. Johnny Faauli (11)

13. Anton Lienert-Brown (45)

14. Toni Pulu (24)

15. Solomon Alaimalo (14)

RESERVES:

16. Liam Polwart (11) 

17. Karl Tu’inukuafe (4)

18. Jeff Thwaites (2)

19. Luke Jacobson (2)

20. Liam Messam (167)

21. Jonathan Taumateine (6) 

22. Charlie Ngatai  (45) (c)

23. Marty McKenzie (10)

The Gallagher Chiefs have marked Sam Cane's 100th match for the club with a hard fought 27-22 win over the Highlanders at FMG Stadium Waikato in another physical and entertaining New Zealand derby.

In a match where momentum swung back and forth throughout, with the Chiefs giving up a 13-point lead at once stage, they kept their cool to come from behind in the final quarter to claim another four important competition points.

The opening stages of the match saw a patient and cautious start from both teams, with the Highlanders dealt an early blow as All Black first five Lima Sopoaga was forced from the field with an Achilles injury in just the fifth minute.

Over a dozen phases hard on attack then followed from the Chiefs as they pressured the Highlanders line until a penalty was blown in their favour which first five Damian McKenzie converted from handy to the posts.

Both teams then enjoyed time in possession, with the home side looking more dangerous on attack but were met by some equally impressive Highlanders defence. Their attacking raid again resulted in three points as McKenzie ended the opening quarter of the match with his second penalty to give his side a six-point lead.

The response came from the visitors as they slowly worked their way downfield, playing more direct and showing good ball retention, before second five Rob Thompson saw some space and placed a well weighted cross kick for his wing Waisake Naholo who collected and scored in the right-hand corner.

Replacement first five Fletcher Smith nailed the conversion from out wide and the Highlanders, somewhat against the run of play, found themselves in front 7-6 after 25 minutes.

Back to back line breaks from McKenzie and wing Sean Wainui gave the Chiefs a good chance for further points but possession was lost inside the Highlanders 22.

For the final 10 minutes of the half the Chiefs continued to ask questions of the Highlanders with their defence finally cracking just one minute before the break. Under penalty advantage, McKenzie produced a well-placed cross kick for Toni Pulu with the winger jumping high and tapping the ball back inside superbly for fullback Solomon Alaimalo to score.

McKenzie's conversion, on target from near the sideline, was the last play of the half as the Chiefs headed into the changing rooms with a 13-7 lead.

The Chiefs came out firing from the halftime break, with a rampaging attack from deep inside their own territory coming up just 10 metres short, and from the resulting scrum McKenzie made a dart for the line with hooker Nathan Harris on hand to pick up and burrow his way over.

McKenzie added the extras to all of a sudden take them out to a 13-point lead.

Just like they had in the first half, the Highlanders responded well to conceding points as they steadily worked towards the Chiefs line and, after keeping the Chiefs defence on their toes with a quick tap, halfback Aaron Smith fired a wide pass from a ruck for an unmarked Tevita Li to score.

With momentum in their favour they soon added further points as Fletcher Smith kicked a penalty to narrow the gap to just five points with 20 minutes remaining.

Two minutes later a charged down kick saw the Highlanders swing onto attack once more, and a scrambling Chiefs defence couldn't recover in time as replacement Sio Tomkinson waltzed through a gap to score, with Fletcher Smith's conversion putting the visitors back in front 22-20.

Their lead didn't last long as some good strong running from both forwards and backs saw the Chiefs charge back into Highlanders territory, and eventually the movement was finished off out wide by wing Sean Wainui.

McKenzie's perfect night off the tee continued as he drilled the sideline conversion to restored a five-point lead with 10 minutes left to play.

The Highlanders moved towards the Chiefs line to set up a tense finish which was a fitting end to an enthralling contest. But consecutive lineout wins against the throw for the Chiefs helped to relieve the pressure, and they were able to wind the clock down and clear to touch to seal a hard-earned victory.

Gallagher Chiefs 27 (Solomon Alaimalo, Nathan Harris, Sean Wainui tries; Damian McKenzie 3 cons, 2 pens) Highlanders 22 (Waisake Naholo, Tevita Li, Sio Tomkinson tries; Fletcher Smith 2 cons, pen) HT: 13-7.

The Gallagher Chiefs will be back at FMG Stadium Waikato again next week, with local rivals the Blues coming to town on Saturday 7 April, kick off 7.35pm.

Gallagher Chiefs loose forward and co-captain Sam Cane will become the latest Chiefs centurion when he runs out against the Highlanders in Hamilton on Friday evening.

26-year old Cane has been named to start the eagerly-anticipated New Zealand derby match at FMG Stadium Waikato and will become just the seventh Chiefs player to reach the special milestone, joining Mils Muliana, Liam Messam, Tanerau Latimer, Hikawera Elliot, Aaron Cruden and Stephen Donald.

Sam made his debut for the Gallagher Chiefs against the Lions in Johannesburg in 2011, and was part of the back-to-back winning squad who won Investec Super Rugby titles in 2012 and 2013.

The loose forward became co-captain of the squad in 2016 with Aaron Cruden and has grown from strength to strength both with on-field performance and the leadership he brings to the team.

Head Coach Colin Cooper was delighted to see Sam reach this significant milestone.

“Sam has shown lots of hard work and sacrifice to earn his 100th game, which is an outstanding effort. It’s great to be involved with him on his 100th. He’s an outstanding leader of the group, and doesn’t just talk it, but walks it big time on the field.”

Sam Cane commented on his time so far at the Chiefs and what the club mean to him.

“The Chiefs are a team that are dear to me. I grew up in this region supporting Bay of Plenty and the Chiefs so it is literally a dream come true to be representing this side.”

Cane again picked up the Co-Captain duties for the 2018 season, alongside Charlie Ngatai and has started every game so far of the campaign.

Known for his relentless work ethic and tenacity at the breakdown, Cane has played over 53 test matches for the All Blacks, captaining the side on numerous occasions. He is also part of the All Blacks leadership group.

Following Friday’s match, New Zealand Rugby will present Cane with a pounamu mere, the traditional NZR gift for players who play 100 Super Rugby games for New Zealand sides. We will be celebrating Sam as he makes this significant milestone, so make sure you get on down to FMG Stadium Waikato to support a true Chiefs Country legend.

Tickets start from only $21 for adults and $11 for kids and you can purchase them right HERE.

The Gallagher Chiefs will go into their first home New Zealand derby full of confidence against the Highlanders, after a comprehensive win over the Sunwolves last week in Tokyo, Japan.

Head Coach Colin Cooper is excited about what promises to be a monumental Easter clash.

“We’ve built a lot of confidence from seeing the heart in this group throughout the competition so far. The way we performed against the Sunwolves has also given the attack focus a real boost in confidence.”

Cooper has made three changes to the starting fifteen which set an all time Chiefs high score win of 61-10 against the Sunwolves. The tight five is unchanged, with the only change in the forward pack being the vastly experienced Liam Messam in at number 6. In the backline, Brad Weber will start in the number 9 jersey, Solomon Alaimalo moves to number 15, and Sean Wainui comes in on the wing.

Starting every game so far this season, Sam Cane runs out in front on his home crowd not just as captain, but for his 100th Investec Super Rugby match. “Sam has shown lots of hard work and sacrifice to earn his 100th game, which is an outstanding effort - it’s great to be involved with him on his 100th. He’s an outstanding leader of the group, and doesn't just talk it, but walks it big time on the field”.

On the bench with a possible debut, Pita Gus Sowakula will be very excited to make his entry into Investec Super Rugby.

The clash will be huge at FMG Stadium Waikato this Friday night according to Cooper.

“The Highlanders are a dangerous team. We have to certainly be defensively ready for them because they can attack from their own goal line. They put a lot of variety into their game, so we will really get tested by them.”

Kickoff of this local Easter derby is at 7.35pm on Friday night at FMG Stadium Waikato. You can purchase tickets HERE with prices starting from only $21 for adults and $11 for kids. 

The Gallagher Chiefs team to take on the Highlanders is:

1. Aidan Ross (10)

2. Nathan Harris (35)

3. Angus Ta’avao (4)

4. Brodie Retallick (88)

5. Tyler Ardron (2)

6. Liam Messam (166)

7. Sam Cane (99)(c)

8. Taleni Seu (32)

9. Brad Weber (46)

10. Damian McKenzie (54)

11. Sean Wainui (4)

12. Johnny Faauli (10)

13. Anton Lienert-Brown (44)

14. Toni Pulu (23)

15. Solomon Alaimalo (13)

RESERVES:

16. Liam Polwart (10) 

17. Karl Tu’inukuafe (3)

18. Jeff Thwaites (1)

19. Pita Gus Sowakula *

20. Lachlan Boshier (23)

21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (4)

22. Marty McKenzie (10)

23. Charlie Ngatai (44)

Photo Credit: KAORI MATSUMOTO (Japan Rugby Magazine)

The Gallagher Chiefs have come away from their first ever match in Japan with a comprehensive 61-10 win over the Sunwolves at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo.

After jumping out to a 28-point lead thanks to four tries in the opening quarter, the Chiefs were always in control in a dominant all round display, finishing with nine tries in total and taking the full five competition points back to New Zealand, improving their season record to three wins and a loss.

It didn't take long for the Chiefs to make their mark on the match, charging down field with nearly everyone getting their hands on the ball in opening stages, and eventually wing Toni Pulu offloaded inside to lock Tyler Ardron who crossed for the first try in the fifth minute of play.

In good conditions, both teams were keen to play an expansive game but it was the Chiefs who looked better when in possession with some simple errors letting the home side down.

Solomon Alaimalo then went close to a second try for the Chiefs, after a good run by fellow wing Pulu, but the ball was lost in the tackle just metres from the line.

From the resulting scrum, a huge push from the Chiefs earned a turnover and then penalty, with lock Brodie Retallick barging his way over after a quick tap was taken to score his third try in two weeks.

Soon after the Chiefs were in again with a nicely worked lineout move seeing halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi deliver a pass back to an unmarked Nathan Harris who had a clear run to the line from 10 metres out.

First five Damian McKenzie then split the defence with a run that started inside his own 22, with Tahuriorangi in support who drew the last defender for Alaimalo to go over under the posts and score the Chiefs fourth try.

Damian McKenzie's fourth conversion made it a comfortable 28-0 lead after just 20 minutes.

After defending for most of the first quarter, the Sunwolves finally managed to get some better field position but, after several minutes of pressure on the Chiefs defence, the visitors were able to clear the danger.

With their hands back on the ball the Chiefs worked their way downfield but this time were met by a more organised Sunwolves defence.

Out of nowhere the Sunwolves then broke clear down the right wing with former Chief Michael Leitch making a good run before handing off to wing Semisi Masirewa who showed nice footwork to beat two defenders and score.

Their first points of the day gave the Sunwolves confidence and late in the half they pushed towards the line once more, but a timely turnover for the Chiefs saw them win a penalty and clear to touch to take a 28-5 lead into the halftime break.

The Sunwolves came out flying in the second half with big wing Hosea Saumaki getting the ball near halfway, fending off one defender and sprinting clear around another for a brilliant solo try just 70 seconds after the resumption of play.

Just minutes later there was a response from the Chiefs with McKenzie throwing a pin point cut out pass to Pulu who burst clear down the sideline before giving the ball back inside for McKenzie to score.

After another good period on attack for the Sunwolves came a superb counter attacking try from the Chiefs, as Ardron was put into space and ran 60 metres before two quick offloads ended in the hands of Alaimalo, and the in-form winger had too much pace and went over for his second try.

As substitutions came on from both sides for the final quarter the game began to open up and, just as the Sunwolves were looking dangerous on attack, a turnover was followed by a well-placed kick over the top into space from Tahuriorangi, gladly accepted by McKenzie for his second try.

McKenzie continued to show his class as he set up the Chiefs eighth try of the match, taking the ball to line and delivering a perfect pass onto the chest of replacement hooker Liam Polwart who broke through to score next to the posts.

The first five was not done yet as he continued his dominant performance, placing a chip kick over the top of a rushing defence for replacement Sean Wainui to run onto and score.

After he added his eighth conversion, to go along with his two tries, McKenzie finished with a personal haul of 26 points.

With the final play of the game the Sunwolves looked to have the last say as they attacked deep into Chiefs territory, but the ball was lost to end an entertaining match full of running rugby.

Gallagher Chiefs 61 (Solomon Alaimalo 2, Damian McKenzie 2, Tyler Ardron, Brodie Retallick, Nathan Harris, Liam Polwart, Sean Wainui tries; Damian McKenzie 8 cons) Sunwolves 10 (Semisi Masirewa, Hosea Saumaki tries) HT: 28-5.

The Gallagher Chiefs now return home for a New Zealand derby match against the Highlanders at FMG Stadium Waikato on Friday 30 March (kick off 7.35pm).

The Gallagher Chiefs have touched down in Tokyo for the very first time to take on the Sunwolves this Saturday in their Round Six clash at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium.

The away side come in to this game buoyed by two confidence-building wins in recent weeks against the Blues and the Bulls. The Sunwolves were also very impressive in Johannesburg last weekend, narrowly losing to last year’s Investec Super Rugby finalists the Lions by just 2 points.

Gallagher Chiefs Head Coach Colin Cooper was looking forward to the game ahead in Japan against the Sunwolves.

“We’re really excited to be here in Tokyo, Japan. It’s the first time the Gallagher Chiefs have been here to play in this Super Rugby competition so it’s an historic occasion. We know how tough the Sunwolves will be to beat at their home ground so we’re focused on preparing really well for a tough match on Saturday afternoon.

“We’re always seeking to create healthy competition amongst our group of men and there are a few players who have really put their hand up by training the house down these past few weeks. It’s great to be able to reward that effort with an opportunity. Marty McKenzie has earned a start at fullback and Mitchell Karpik comes onto the bench as loose forward cover. We’ve been hugely impressed with Mitch Karpik’s work ethic and he had an outstanding game for the University of Waikato Chiefs Taua Development team last weekend, his performance has demanded a place in the 23 this week.

“This is only game 4 in what is a hugely demanding competition so we’re focused on managing our players – particularly Liam and Tiaan who are both going extremely well but are carrying some niggles. Liam’s leadership is critical to our group and we want to keep him fresh and hungry with some big derby matches in the coming weeks.”

Cooper has made five changes to the starting fifteen who battled to the impressive 41-28 win over the Bulls at home last Friday. Canadian recruit Tyler Ardron comes in to the locking department to partner Brodie Retallick. It’s the Canadian’s first start for the team, after an impressive cameo off the bench against the Blues in Round Three. Taleni Seu also comes in to the loose forwards after a rest last weekend.

In the backline, quick-footed Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi starts at halfback, after making a fantastic impact as a substitute against the Bulls last week. Speedster Toni Pulu is back from injury for the first time this season at right wing and Marty McKenzie starts at fullback with brother Damian moving to First-Five Eighth.

It is a special evening for Waikato youngster Bailyn Sullivan who is in line to make his Investec Super Rugby debut off the bench in the number 23 jersey. Bailyn has been training with the squad throughout the pre-season and is also a member of the University of Waikato Chiefs Taua Development squad.

The game kicks off at 5:15pm NZT and viewers can watch on Sky Sport One. Following this exciting Tokyo game, the Gallagher Chiefs have a massive fortnight of home New Zealand derbies coming up against the Highlanders next Friday 30 March and the following Saturday against the Blues, both to be played at FMG Stadium Waikato.

The Gallagher Chiefs team to take on the Sunwolves is:
1. Aidan Ross (9)
2. Nathan Harris (34)
3. Angus Ta’avao (3)
4. Brodie Retallick (86)
5. Tyler Ardron (1)
6. Lachlan Boshier (22)
7. Sam Cane (98)
8. Taleni Seu (30)
9. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (3)
10. Damian McKenzie (53)
11. Solomon Alaimalo (12)
12. Johnny Faauli (9)
13. Anton Lienert-Brown (43)
14. Toni Pulu (22)
15. Marty McKenzie (9)

RESERVES:

16. Liam Polwart (9)
17. Karl Tu’inukaufe (2)
18. Jeff Thwaites (1)
19. Michael Allardice (24)
20. Mitchell Karpik (6)
21. Brad Weber (45)
22. Sean Wainui (3)
23. Bailyn Sullivan**

Unavailable for selection: Dominic Bird, Tim Nanai-Williams, Charlie Ngatai, Fin Hoeata, Alex Nankivell, Regan Verney, Mitchell Graham, Sosefo Kautai, Sam McNicol, Atu Moli, Kane Hames, Shaun Stevenson , Mitchell Brown.