The Chiefs have pulled off an unbelievable last-gasp win over the Blues in a thrilling Battle of the Bombays Super Rugby Aotearoa clash in Hamilton on Saturday night.
Just as they looked out of it at 12-8 down with a minute to play, Damian McKenzie twisted his way over beside the posts to seal a 15-12 victory and send the 12,997 into raptures at FMG Stadium Waikato.
The fans had definitely had to wait a while to celebrate a victory this stunner coming some 413 days since the Chiefs last home win. Just a week after avoiding setting a new record for a Kiwi losing streak, they again managed to stop their home-ground rot one short of new territory as well.
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Damian McKenzie goes over for the matchwinner for the Chiefs.
And just like last week in the capital, it was a couple of their big guns who stood up when it counted most with Luke Jacobson making a storming run upfield at the death, before livewire McKenzie opted not to spin wide, and did the business himself.
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There was late drama, still, as the Blues used their captain’s referral to check the last pass, and it was a close-run thing, but TMO Aaron Paterson rightly ruled there was no clear and obvious evidence to overturn the on-field try, following Jacobson’s ball to Chase Tiatia.
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Chiefs second-five Quinn Tupaea tries to get a ball away in the tackle.
It was a bitter blow to the Blues, in what was Ofa Tuungafasi’s 100th Super Rugby match, as they were handed a second loss on the bounce, following their defeat to the Crusaders last weekend, and the Chiefs are now breathing down their necks on the ladder, just two points behind in third place.
It was a low-scoring contest, but in what has been a competition without close matches, this was a second successive thriller for the Chiefs, who are now back in business in a big way, and have a bye to regain their breath.
It took 25 minutes for the game’s first points, but it was not to say the crowd were lacking for entertainment. It was high-octane stuff, there were punishing hits, and Chiefs second-five Quinn Tupaea twice broke the line, only for his post-tackle distribution to be then found wanting.
The Blues looked to be equally guilty in that department, when, camping near the Chiefs line and with the hosts’ discipline beginning to crack, a ridiculous between-the-legs pass from Harry Plummer went to grandstand, not hand, and seemingly let the Chiefs off.
However, when the Chiefs mucked up the lineout, the Blues indeed had their try, Finlay Christie sniping close, then Akira Ioane burrowing over.
On the half-hour it looked like the visitors were in for their second, pouncing on a sloppy Chiefs attack, and Mark Telea racing away down the right touch, only for McKenzie to chase him down in a brilliant try-saving tackle.
Anton Lienert-Brown’s late tackle on Stephen Perofeta gave the Blues a late gift in front of the sticks, but they continued to prefer the lineout. It continued to ill-function, though, and instead it was almost the Chiefs scoring a stunner down the other end, only for Mitchell Browns last pass not to come off, and the Blues took their 7-0 lead to halftime.
Clearly not satisfied with the functioning of his side’s set piece, with their scrum also back-pedalling on occasions, Leon MacDonald made the rare move of three halftime changes introducing props Tuungafasi and Alex Hodgman, and lock Gerard Cowley-Tuioti.
But, after McKenzie got the home side on the board via the tee in the 46th minute, a massive Chiefs scrum then must have made MacDonald a worried man. It felt a turning point, with high jersey numbers coming from everywhere to back-slap the big men.
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Brad Weber looks to make a brave tackle on Hoskins Sotutu.
With Sam Cane turning down shots, the Chiefs then camped in the Blues’ 22m. They thought they had their rewards in the 54th minute when Lienert-Brown chased through a Kaleb Trask kick, but TMO Paterson deemed he did not have control probably, with just a fingertip in it, the right call, despite the echo of boos which then rang around the stadium.
But, just four minutes later, local lad Paterson made friends with the fans again, able to indeed award the Chiefs their first try of the night, with Samisoni Taukei’aho barging his way over.
The Chiefs would hold their lead for less than five minutes, though, as while Otere Black missed a gettable penalty shot, the Blues swiftly surged on a short-side attack and impact man Tom Robinson went on a 40-metre charge down the right touch for the visitors second five-pointer.
All of a sudden, the wave of momentum was with the Blues, and big players such as Caleb Clarke and Rieko Ioane started to stamp their class, and Cane gingerly left the park with 14 minutes left.
The Blues looked to have struck a crucial blow in the 69th minute through Dalton Papalii, but Paterson ruled it out due to maul obstruction, and the Chiefs were still in it.
Chiefs 15 (Samisoni Taukei’aho, Damian McKenzie tries; Damian McKenzie con, pen) Blues 12 (Akira Ioane, Tom Robinson tries; Otere Black con). HT: 0-7.