The Chiefs were striving to win the right to play a probable Super Rugby semi-final in Christchurch next week, their mission, to get past the much-improved Waratahs team in Hamilton.
The Aussies selected a mobile forward pack to take on the Kiwi team and of course much was made about the absence of All Blacks captain Sam Cane.
The home team worked hard for a handsome lead at halftime but the Tahs came out after the break determined to blunt the physicality of the Chiefs and they succeeded.
However, they coughed up too many errors to force themselves seriously back in the game.
The Chiefs made the most of their more-limited chances in the second half for a secure 39-15 victory.
Here’re the winner’s ratings.
1. Aidan Ross – 6.5
The burly loosehead was at his best at scrum time getting the best over an underdone Johnson-Holmes. No doubt about his scrumming credentials but needs to work on the fancy stuff out in the open spaces. Off at 52.
2. Samisoni Taukei’aho – 8
With Dane Coles timing his run for All Blacks selection, Taukei’aho needed to show his wares and keep the set-piece errors low and he carved it up. At his bellicose best both sides of the ball. Can’t wait for the matchup next week, it could decide the starting hooker for the first test against Ireland! Off at 60.
3. Angus Ta’avao – 7
I love to hear Angus talk and I’d love to be in the changing room to hear his explanation of how he was gassed by Mark Nawaqanitawase in the 11th minute. The prop was very good against his old franchise giving Bell a torrid time, although to be fair to the Aussie he had Hanigan having a rest behind him during the scrums. Off at 71.
4. Brodie Retallick – 8.5
Old Brodie decided to come and play knock out rugby and it was good to watch. Got around the paddock well, almost covered the wing in the Pietsch try. In the 25th minute we saw a big Brodie smash at the perfect height on Donaldson. A nice series of defense early in the second half, clipped the ankles of Harris then another angry tackle on Edmed to close the Aussies down. Was really good at lineout time as well, more confident and hungry.
5. Tupou Vaa’i – 6
He’s enigmatic this fella and I can see why some experts think he’s got the goods to play 6. Effective left foot clearing kick at 13 minutes but has to watch showbiz. Almost had a penalty turned round with a push on Hanigan in the 32nd minute, then moments later dropped an easy ball on attack. Went off the boil a little, reflecting his team’s effort and off at 57.
6. Samipeni Finau – 7
Probably a bit early for the next World Cup but he’s a contender for the problematic 6 position further down the road. Big carries and lineout takes early on, the thunderbolt of a tackle at 36 led to a turnover from Narawa. Like Vaa’i just lost the vigour a bit in the second half and will need to be there for all the 80 next week.
7. Luke Jacobson – 8
It’s become fashionable for loose forwards to run out on the fringes but I love it when Jacobson runs it up the guts, both for the Chiefs and All Blacks. Was used at lineout time in the midfield running off Tupaea and cleaning out and also providing some attention to defense. Also got the lineout maul try at 22 minutes. Nice series of play with a strong tackle on Newsome at the 56th minute, then some skilled catch and pass, all within eighth seconds. Top team tackler, will not disgrace the All Blacks this year with his versatility.
8. Pita Gus Sowakula – 7
Enjoyed being back at 8, especially with the dominant scrum. Was penalised in the 13th minute laying down at ruck time. Muscular, rattling tackle in the 28th minute that gave his team the ball. At 70 minutes he powered over showing what he does best. Is he an All Black? In my opinion, no.
9. Brad Weber (c) – 8
A perky performance from the little general. Once he hit the gap in the sixth minute off the lineout there was no way he wasn’t going to score Some good service during the game, and topped the meter count for his team. Got a second try at 64 and didn’t look happy to be pulled at 69.
10. Bryn Gatland – 6
Gatland was not fully convincing and it will be interesting to see what coach McMillan does with his 10-15 combo next week. One area he was strong in was defense, good tackle count, a sneaky strip at 14th minutes. Spent a lot of the first half shovelling it on to Quinn Tupaea which worked well, a couple of whoopsies though, a poor punt after getting the ball back at 49 minutes, and a dropped ball with the perfect counter attacking chance.
11. Etene Nanai-Seturo – 5.5
Love to watch this guy step, magic feet. Just didn’t happen that often this week. Off at 59.
12. Quinn Tupaea – 8
He has underlined his test credentials lately and it’ll be a battle royale against an improved David Havili next week. Was credited with 34 meters but seemed to constantly be wading through defenders in the first 40. Special turnover at fourth minute on Holloway. He’s palpably strong, shrugging off big forwards and getting over the advantage line, but he has subtlety as well; the soft hands at 64 minutes in the build up to Weber’s second try.
13. Alex Nankivell – 7.5
Seems to be a talisman for the Chiefs team now with a heavy workload this season. Still full of energy though, got back to bundle Nawaqatawase up early, manhandled Hannigan moments later. A heady break in the 21st minute but lost contact with his outsides. Pounced on the loose ball at 34 minutes like a dog on a sausage to get his seventh try in the competition this year. Off at 67.
14. Jonah Lowe – 6
Some Super Rugby wings need to take a look at a Sevu Reece reel and learn how to inject themselves into games. Very quiet for long periods and looked jumpy early on. A good turnover in the 11th minute after Nankivell tackle. A poor clean out at 29 led to his team to be penalised. His best work came when he was posted on the left wing, especially when he set up a nice try for Weber.
15. Emoni Narawa – 5.5
Gutsy turnover at 36, and some lovely gliding running with ball in hand but perhaps doesn’t have the kicking or positioning game to play knock out footy at fullback. A sketchy punt to touch off the side of the boot and pushed to right wing where the ball didn’t come his way.
16. Bradley Slater – 6
On at 60. Good draw and pass at 66 on the Lowe attack on the left and as you’d expect solid in core duties.
17. Ollie Norris – 5
On at 52. Scrum is weakened when he is introduced and found it hard today to get his mojo in phase play.
18. Atu Moli – N/A
On at 71.
19. Naitoa Ah Kuoi – 5.5
On at 57 and definitely lifted the team effort.
20. Mitch Brown – 5.5
On at 69, played a great hand in Sowakula’s try, or more a shoulder on the Fijian’s butt!
21. Xavier Roe – 5.5
On at 69, always looks the part.
22. Josh Ioane – 5
On at 59 with a good opportunity to state his case for a start next week. Tepid effort.
23. Rameka Poihipi – N/A
On at 67.
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