The Gallagher Chiefs have backed up their opening round win with a dominant display against the Blues at FMG Stadium Waikato, cruising to a 41-26 victory in 2017’s first edition of the Battle of the Bombays.
With a red card reducing the visitors to 14 men just before halftime, the Chiefs turned it on in front of a large crowd of local fans in the first home game of the season, with three tries in each half sending them on their way to a comfortable bonus point win.
Proceedings started with a rousing reception for Chiefs captain Aaron Cruden who took the field for his 100th Super Rugby match, but it was an encouraging start from the Blues as back to back penalties in the first two minutes led to the opening points from the boot of first five Ihaia West.
The Chiefs wasted no time in responding as they immediately put pressure on the Blues defence with halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow taking a quick tap from a penalty right in front of the posts, and a second penalty close to line ended in a try from a lineout maul to veteran Liam Messam.
More good territory for the Blues saw two more penalties in kicking range for West and he made no mistake with both attempts to put the visitors back in front.
Unforced errors were halting the Chiefs momentum on attack but when they did hang onto the ball they looked dangerous. A superbly timed pass from big Dominic Bird then put wing Tim
Nanai-Williams into space and the slick movement was eventually finished near the left hand corner by fullback Damian McKenzie.
Cruden slotted the conversion just five metres in from the touchline, and from the restart the momentum continued in the Chiefs favour with prop Kane Hames getting revenge for an earlier conceded scrum penalty, winning one of his own which Cruden turned into another three points.
The Blues had a couple of golden chances to narrow the gap after a rough patch of play throughout the middle of the half, but West missed two penalties from in front - his easiest chances of the night.
With the first 40 minutes drawing to a close a brilliant sniping run from Kerr-Barlow saw him go desperately close to scoring but he had the ball knocked out as he looked to place it over the line. In back play however was a huge moment in the match with Blues loose forward Steven Luatua given a red card for an off the ball swinging arm around the head of Nanai-Williams.
The Chiefs took full advantage with the penalty leading to another unstoppable lineout maul and this time it was hooker Hika Elliot the man to dot down. Cruden’s conversion ended the half and pushed the Chiefs out to a convincing 22-9 lead.
After the halftime break the Chiefs made the best possible start when just two minutes after the resumption flanker Lachlan Boshier capped a strong performance with a pick and go try which blew the lead out to 20 points.
Moments later the Chiefs were in again when a well worked move off a lineout saw Cruden give a classy tapped pass back inside to wing James Lowe who danced his way through the defence to score under the posts.
Subs from the Blues gave them a much needed injection of energy, but the Chiefs weathered the brief storm and launched a long range attack downfield which resulted in a try to centre Anton Lienert-Brown to take the score past 40 points with still over 20 minutes to play.
To their credit the Blues fought back well in the final quarter and there was finally something for their fans to cheer about when replacements Patrick Tuipulotu and Charlie Faumuina crashed over for a couple of quick tries to give some respectability to the score line.
Coach Dave Rennie emptied his bench for the final 15 minutes, taking off several key performers including Cruden, Kerr-Barlow and Brodie Retallick, and the Blues took advantage with yet another replacement, Rene Ranger, finishing strongly in the right hand corner.
Despite the late flurry of Blues points, the result was never in doubt with the Chiefs’ point scoring burst early in the second half ensuring a perfect two bonus point wins from two outings to start the campaign.
Gallagher Chiefs 41 (Liam Messam, Damian McKenzie, Hika Elliot, Lachlan Boshier, James Lowe, Anton Lienert-Brown tries; Aaron Cruden 4 cons, pen) Blues 26 (Patrick Tuipulotu, Charlie Faumuina, Rene Ranger tries; Ihaia West con, 3 pens) HT: 22-9.
The Gallagher Chiefs are back at home again next weekend to take on last year’s Super Rugby champions – the Hurricanes. Kick off at FMG Stadium Waikato is once again 7.35pm on Friday night and tickets are available from http://www.ticketdirect.co.nz/event/details/153984/gallagher-chiefs-v-hurricanes.
The Battle of the Bombays descends on the pristine battleground of FMG Stadium Waikato this Friday night when the Gallagher Chiefs host northern rivals the Blues in a thrilling Round 2 local derby clash. With both teams buoyed by opening round victories, fans are in for a spectacular display of Investec Super Rugby.
Friday’s fixture is particularly special for Gallagher Chiefs co-captain Aaron Cruden, with the outstanding first five-eighth to play in his 100th Investec Super Rugby game. The remarkable milestone is testament to the dedication, determination and resilience Cruden has exhibited countless times in his 28-years, making him the exceptional leader of Chiefs he is today.
Cruden’s teammates will be looking to honour his achievement through a match-winning performance in their first home game of the 2017 season. Gallagher Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has named a formidable 23 to take on the Blues, with seven changes to the team that defeated the Pulse Energy Highlanders 24-15 in Dunedin last Friday.
In the forwards, the experienced tight five remains the same for the second consecutive week. A reshuffle in the loose forwards sees Liam Messam move to blindside flanker from number 8, Lachlan Boshier is promoted from the bench to start at seven and Michael Leitch makes his first appearance for 2017 at number 8.
There is just one change in the backs, with Tim Nanai-Williams moving from the bench to start in jersey 14. In the reserves, the front row cover is unchanged, while Taleni Seu is an exciting replacement option in jersey 19 alongside Tom Sanders who could make his first appearance for 2017 in jersey 20. Speedster Toni Pulu moves to the bench to join Jonathan Taumateine and Shaun Stevenson as backs cover.
The Gallagher Chiefs team to play the Blues at 7.35pm on Friday is:
1. Kane Hames (10)
2. Hika Elliot (105)
3. Nepo Laulala (1)
4. Dominic Bird (12)
5. Brodie Retallick (72)
6. Liam Messam (147)
7. Lachlan Boshier (9)
8. Michael Leitch (23)
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (68)
10. Aaron Cruden (captain) (74)
11. James Lowe (38)
12. Johnny Faauli (1)
13. Anton Lienert-Brown (25)
14. Tim Nanai-Williams (78)
15. Damian McKenzie (34)
16. Samisoni Taukei’aho (1)
17. Siegfried Fisi’ihoi (12)
18. Atu Moli (12)
19. Taleni Seu (19)
20. Tom Sanders (15)
21. Jonathan Taumateine (1)
22. Toni Pulu (14)
23. Shaun Stevenson (8)
() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets
Unavailable for selection: Brad Weber, Mitchell Graham, Fin Hoeata, Nathan Harris, James Tucker, Glen Fisiiahi, Chase Tiatia, Michael Allardice, Charlie Ngatai, Sam McNicol, Liam Polwart, Sam Cane and Stephen Donald.
Friday evening’s action starts early with the University of Waikato Chiefs Taua Development team taking on the Blues Development team at 5pm. Tickets to the Battle of the Bombays clash between the Gallagher Chiefs and the Blues are available now from ticketdirect.co.nz or 0800 4 CHIEFS.
The Gallagher Chiefs have started their 2017 campaign in the best possible fashion, grinding their way to a 24-15 bonus point win over the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Despite a lack of territory and possession for most of the match, two intercept tries to wing James Lowe and a gutsy defensive effort helped pave the way for the three tries to none season opening victory.
It was a fast start for the home side as a series of slick phases saw them launch deep into Chiefs territory and win a penalty as the Gallagher Chiefs were caught offside, and first five Lima Sopoaga kicked a simple three-pointer to draw first blood.
There was soon more pressure applied by the Highlanders with the Chiefs unable to get out of their own half, but against the run of play James Lowe was able to latch onto a loose pass from Aaron Smith and scoot away for an intercept try from near halfway.
Captain Aaron Cruden added the conversion from under the posts to give the Gallagher Chiefs a surprise 7-3 lead.
After some error ridden play from both sides it was then Lowe to the fore again, this time picking off a pass from Waisake Naholo to remarkably score his second intercept try in the
opening 20 minutes.
Cruden converted again to stretch the lead to 11.
A fired up Highlanders side stormed back down field and nearly replied immediately when Naholo went close to scoring from a Sopoaga cross kick.
Yet more good field position saw the Highlanders continue to threaten the Gallagher Chiefs defence but the final passes were not sticking with a combination of poor handling and desperate Chiefs tackling.
Sopoaga then missed a penalty attempt but was on target with his third kick of the night from 45 metres out to narrow the Chiefs lead.
The Highlanders’ dominance of territory and possession continued and several more phases deep in the Chiefs 22 very nearly led to their opening try of the match, but they had to settle once more for just three points from the boot of Sopoaga.
A rare chance on attack for the Gallagher Chiefs was the final play of the half, but the Highlanders cleared to touch after a turnover as the teams headed into the break with the visitors up 14 points to 9.
After absorbing the first half pressure, the Chiefs started the second spell brightly and were rewarded with their third try. A well worked lineout move down the touchline between hooker Hika Elliot and halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow saw Elliot break free and score in the left hand corner.
Cruden nailed the sideline conversion to push the lead out to 12 points.
Another long period on attack followed for the Highlanders as they went in search of a way back into the contest, but more courageous defence denied over 15 phases of attacking pressure.
With the amount of defending taking its toll, coach Dave Rennie went to the bench early and the fresh legs proved to be a much needed boost both on attack and in defence.
But as the match headed into the final quarter Sopoaga was able to add two quick penalties to narrow the gap to just six points.
The Chiefs reply was just as quick with a composed and patient attacking raid ending in a Cruden penalty to put the lead back out beyond a converted try.
There was yet more defending to do for the visitors but it seemed whatever the Highlanders threw at them they had an answer for, and a turnover from Liam Messam just two minutes from full time proved to be the final nail in the coffin as the Gallagher Chiefs ensured they would head back to Hamilton with a full five points to start the season.
Gallagher Chiefs 24 (James Lowe 2, Hika Elliot tries; Aaron Cruden 3 cons, pen) Highlanders 15 (Lima Sopoaga 5 pens) HT: 14-9.
Next up for the Gallagher Chiefs is their first home game of the season - a mouth-watering local derby against the Blues at FMG Stadium Waikato next Friday night. Tickets for that match are available from http://www.ticketdirect.co.nz/event/details/153983/gallagher-chiefs-v-blues.
Get excited Chiefs fans, because the future is bright. Twenty-five promising young players have been named today in the Chiefs U20s team to play the Blues U20s team this Saturday 25 February. Many of the names will be familiar to those astute rugby observers who have followed the Chiefs region Provincial Union U19s teams, with these exciting young players now looking to make their mark on an even bigger stage.
The Chiefs U20s programme was developed in 2016 and forms a critical part of the comprehensive University of Waikato Chiefs Development programme, which identifies promising Chiefs region rugby players and develops them for future opportunities in professional rugby, together with their Provincial Unions. The Chiefs U20s programme is also an important part of the New Zealand Under 20s selection process.
This Saturday’s match kicks off at 2.30pm at the Manukau Rugby Football Club. It is the first of three games that the Chiefs U20s team will play, in a programme that includes a match against the Argentina U20s team in late March.
The University of Waikato Chiefs U20s team to play the Blues U20s team is:
1. Ryan Coxan (Waikato)
2. Bradley Slater (Taranaki)
3. Tevita Mafileo ( Bay of Plenty)
4. Sione Tuipulotu (Counties Manukau)
5. Sam Caird (Waikato)
6. Tom Florence (Taranaki)
7. Du’Plessis Kirifi (Waikato)
8. Luke Jacobson – CAPTAIN (Waikato)
9. Caleb Korteweg (Waikato)
10. Matthew Lansdown (Waikato)
11. Sevu Reece (Waikato)
12. Matt McKenzie (Taranaki)
13. Salimoni Tukania (Counties Manukau)
14. Tyler Campbell (Waikato)
15. Niven Longopoa (Waikato)
16. Damon Abraham (Counties Manukau)
17. Angus MacDonald (Bay of Plenty)
18. Alex Mitchell (Taranaki)
19. Lachlan McWhannell (Waikato)
20. Antonio Kata (Counties Manukau)
21. Ajay Mua (Bay of Plenty)
22. Ciarahn Matoe (Taranaki)
23. Brad Armstrong (Bay of Plenty)
24. Antonio Mikaele Tu’u (Waikato)
25. James Brady (Counties Manukau)
Chiefs U20s Management Team:
Coach: Tasesa Lavea
Coach: Tai Lavea
Coach: Paul Tito
Trainer: George Wardell
Physio: Kyle Turvey
Manager: Paul Galletta
Programme Manager: Kent Currie