It’s taken 12 matches – including eight in last year’s competition – for the Chiefs to finally taste victory in a Super Rugby Aotearoa match.
The Hurricanes looked odds-on to extend the Chiefs’ losing streak, taking a 26-7 lead into half-time, but the away side were hungrier in the second stanza and mounted an exceptional comeback.
Come the 80th minute, it was the Chiefs who held the lead, ultimately triumphing 35-29.
Who were the victorious side’s best performers on the night?
1. Aidan Ross – 6.5/10
Penalised once at the maul but was immovable at scrum-time. That solid platform ultimately kept the Chiefs in the game and allowed the big comeback.
2. Samisoni Taukei’aho – 8.5
Once again, a key metre-eater for the Chiefs. Ran a great line and threw a perfect offload to create Kaleb Trask’s try. Perfect record at the lineouts. Has stepped up his game from last year. Off in 68th minute.
3. Angus Ta’avao – 7
Won a hugely important scrum penalty when the Hurricanes looked likely and, otherwise, looked considerably safer than last week against the Crusaders. Off in 68th minute.
4. Tupou Vaa’i – 8
Absolutely mammoth shift on attack, making 11 carries in his restricted time on the park. We saw last year how much raw potential Vaa’i has but tonight’s effort was a coming of age performance for the 21-year-old. Off in 47th minute for an HIA but never returned to the field.
5. Naitoa Ah Kuoi – 8
Not as destructive as his locking partner but still willing on attack, making 13 carries, and never shied away from contact. Industrious on defence – the yin to Vaa’i’s yang. Worthy of his late-game meat pie that momentarily tied up the scores and then threw the last pass for the Chiefs’ final try of the game.
6. Mitch Brown – 6
Copped a few hefty shots and made a few momentum-halting hits of his own. An understated performance. Off in 68th minute.
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7. Sam Cane – 8
Showed a lot more on offence than what we’re probably used to, regularly popping up on attack in the midfield, and was his typical on defence, notching 13 tackles. A couple of nice runs early, including one gallop out wide – but was then immediately pinged for not releasing the ball. Trusted his side to convert a penalty into a try and was duly rewarded.
8. Luke Jacobson – 7.5
Great steal five metres from the goal line temporarily prevented the Hurricanes from increasing their lead. Superb final five minutes, scored the final try and then secured the penalty that ultimately locked in the win.
9. Brad Weber – 7
Relatively quiet in the first half bar one lovely early run off a scrum. Came to life in the second. Sneaky lineout move on halftime almost produced a try and finally got himself on the scoreboard in the final stages of the third quarter after making a great supporting run. Off in 71st minute.
10. Kaleb Trask – 7
Regularly challenged the line and offered more on attack than Bryn Gatland in the past two weeks but wasn’t as composed as his more senior teammate. A nice support line off Taukei’aho’s run earned him the Chiefs’ first try of the night. A horrific dropped ball from Luke Campbell’s box kick directly led to Salesi Rayasi’s score. Poor decision to kick off his weak foot and hand the Hurricanes a 5-metre lineout instead of taking the goal-line drop-out cost the Chiefs another five points. Off in 52nd minute.
11. Etene Nanai-Seturo – 3
Completely shut down on attack and was found out on defence. Needed to be quicker to support Damian McKenzie when he took a high ball – the result was a penalty to the Hurricanes. Bad read immediately after his side’s first score meant Ngani Laumape had acres of space to work with and ultimately led to the Ricky Riccitelli try. At fault again for Salesi Rayasi’s second try. Off in 61st minute.
12. Quinn Tupaea – 7.5
The Chiefs’ number one back option for churning metres on attack and also their busiest tackler, with 14 to his name. Nice effort after the Hurricanes’ first try to win the ball back from kick-off. Penalised for going off his feet right after the Chiefs had recovered from some heavy assaults on the line and the Hurricanes scored from the ensuing lineout. Nice bust moments later gave the Chiefs the field position they needed to mount an attack.
13. Anton Lienert-Brown – 6
Distributed well but wasn’t up to his usual high standards – especially on defence. His miss on Jordie Barrett was what gave the Hurricanes fullback the space he needed to set up his side’s first try. As with Nanai-Seturo, was close enough to offer support to McKenzie early but didn’t have the necessary urgency.
14. Jonah Lowe – 7
Less dynamic than in his first appearance of the season, against the Highlanders, but still kept the Hurricanes honest. A few handy runs. Great work to keep a Jordie Barrett penalty kick for the sideline from finding touch. There’s something very likeable about the way Lowe goes about his business.
15. Damian McKenzie – 9
Courageous on attack, courageous on defence. Looked good when he stepped into first receiver at various points throughout the match, and then full-time in the final half-hour. Threw some lovely skip passes to put players into space. Only blemish was a poor kick out on the full that prevented the Chiefs from building any pressure in the early stages of the second quarter – and the Hurricanes scored from their next possession. Classic counter-attack set up the Chiefs’ third try of the evening. Outplayed Jordie Barrett and nailed all of his kicks at goal bar the final penalty.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 20, 2021
16. Bradley Slater – N/A
On in 68th minute.
17. Ollie Norris – N/A
On in 56th minute.
18. Joe Apikotoa – N/A
On in 68th minute for his debut.
19. Samipeni Finau – 6
On in 47th minute. Continued the solid work of Vaa’i on attack and was safe at lineout time.
20. Simon Parker – N/A
On in 68th minute.
21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi – N/A
On in 71st minute.
22. Alex Nankivell – 5.5
On in 61st minute. Conceded a silly penalty not long after the Chiefs had taken the lead.
23. Chase Tiatia – 8.5
On in 52nd minute. Huge impact. Scored a try with his first touch and then played a major role in the Chiefs’ third, moments later, making a brilliant run and offloading to keep the ball alive. Put in some excellent returns from kick-offs.
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