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Damian McKenzie masterclass sees Chiefs outlast Drua in Hamilton

By Ned Lester
Damian McKenzie and the Chiefs celebrate scoring the try. Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images

The Chiefs and Fijian Drua entered their round four contest coming off two very different results, with the former having lost their first game of the season the week prior to the Reds and the Drua having just won their first game of the season against the Crusaders.

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It was high-octane action in Hamilton and the Drua brought their trademark exciting play. While the visitors produced some exhilarating attacking efforts, it was the Chiefs who steadied the ship and grew into the game to run home with the win.

Early in the game, both teams struggled to retain possession with the breakdown offering a fierce contest.

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When a contestable kick bounced off the shoulder of Damian McKenzie and fell at the feet of Iosefo Masi, the midfielder pinned his ears back and galloped away downfield in what has become a familiar sight for Super Rugby fans since the Olympic gold medallists’ debut last year.

Masi’s speed secured the first points of the game, with a try under the posts allowing Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula to easily convert.

Two minutes later, the Chiefs had a lineout just inside the Drua 22 and worked a move perfectly as Daniel Rona, playing on the right wing, burst through a gap and delivered the ball to Kaylum Boshier in support who went over untouched.

Damian McKenzie’s equally simple conversion saw the scores tied at the 10-minute mark.

Then, finally able to find some consistent phase play, the Chiefs benefitted by finding their rhythm and some shape on attack. It was just five minutes after their first try that Rameka Poihipi found a gaping hole in the Drua defence and had Cortez Ratima running inside him who finished a second Chiefs try.

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22m Entries

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The Drua then kicked into gear and put some phases together, quickly piling pressure on the Chiefs who gave away two penalties in quick succession, the latter of which game within their own 22 after some strong runs by the Drua.

Attacking just metres from the Chiefs line, a crisp Armstrong-Ravula pass saw Masi’s brilliant line rewarded and the centre swept in once more under the posts, levelling the scores again.

Both sides’ set piece functioned nearly flawlessly in the opening quarter. Then, with 25 minutes on the clock, a Chiefs scrum earned a penalty and the team opted for a penalty kick. McKenzie delivered his side the three-point lead.

The game was being played by both teams in strong attacking position, with exits and timely turnovers providing constant action.

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The Chiefs extended their lead to 10 in the 33rd minute with a set tap play perfectly executed by Damian McKenzie, who swung back around the blindside with some company and delivered the wide cut-out pass to Daniel Rona who touched down in the corner.

The Drua looked to have the final say of the half after a Chiefs infringement handed Armstrong-Ravula a shot at three points, which the young flyhalf converted. Samipeni Finau had a chance to score soon after and dived for the corner but a TMO check revealed the ball was placed down on the sideline. The score remained 24-17 at the half.

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The Chiefs were looking clinical and dangerous to begin the second 40, making metres off a lineout strike and then running in a try in the corner through Etene Nanai-Seturo.

Luke Jacobson looked to further his team’s momentum when he took out three Drua players at the ruck, opening it up for his team to steal the ball and attack once more. That opportunity went begging, and so too did the Drua’s ensuing play after going deep into phase play.

Another extended defensive stand from the Chiefs eventually came to an end when, backed onto their own try line, Samisoni Taukei’aho produced the breakdown steal.

The Chiefs had earned their next attacking opportunity and were playing with confidence. Damian McKenzie was orchestrating the attack with ambition and poise, and while there were a few missed opportunities, the pressure the Chiefs were applying earned penalties and afforded them multiple attempts. Kaylum Boshier eventually claimed his second try as a result.

The Drua weren’t done yet though and always have the power to break the gain line. On the Chiefs’ line, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta was picked out by Peni Matawalu and gleefully dived over the line.

Shaun Stevenson responded with some individual magic on a chip and chase which sat up for the fullback in a way that it only would for someone in his vein of form. His try saw the lead extended to 46-24.

The excitement kept coming for the Hamilton crowd and Damian McKenzie was pushed out as he dived for the try line in the corner. Selestino Ravutaumada sliced the Chiefs’ defence open soon after. Ollie Norris was yellow carded after repeated Chiefs infringements and the Drua capitalised on the one-man advantage to score in the corner after the final hooter. Final score: 46-29.

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1 Comment
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Red and White Dynamight 126 days ago

Most exciting player on the planet right now, worth the price of a ticket.

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