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Highlanders fall to classy Chiefs in season-opening clash in Queenstown

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by James Allan/Getty Images)

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The Chiefs have opened their 2022 Super Rugby Pacific campaign in victorious fashion, beating the Highlanders 26-16 at Wakatipu Rugby Club in Queenstown on Saturday.

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As fancied by the bookmakers, the Chiefs, playing their home match in Highlanders territory, proved far too classy for their southern counterparts throughout the course of the contest.

All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick was among the stars of the show, producing a world-class try assist with a back flick pass into the clutches of Emoni Narawa, who scored one of this side’s three tries.

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The others were scored by Sam Cane, who has halfback Xavier Roe to thank for assisting his score, while Pita Gus Sowakula produced a fine piece of athleticism to skip over the top of Aaron Smith and score off the back of a scrum.

By contrast, it took the Highlanders almost 70 minutes to cross the line when replacement prop Daniel Lienert-Brown scored after some good build-up by his side’s forward pack.

Prior to that, the Highlanders were plagued by errors which appeared to stem from a lack of cohesion between teammates.

The introduction of Lienert-Brown, Thomas Umaga-Jensen and Folau Fakatava went some way to improving their side’s output, but they ultimately fell well short of Clayton McMillan’s side.

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The match also acted as Chiefs pivot Josh Ioane’s first appearance for his new franchise against his old side, with the one-test All Black acquitting himself well in the No 10 jersey.

The result lifts the Chiefs to second place on the standings, with numerous more games to be played, while the Highlanders lie in 11th spot.

The Chiefs will continue their campaign against Moana Pasifika in Dunedin next Friday, while the Highlanders will host the Crusaders at Forsyth Barr Stadium the following day.

Chiefs 26 (Tries to Sam Cane, Pita Gus Sowakula and Emoni Narawa; conversion and 2 penalties to Josh Ioane, penalty to Bryn Gatland)

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Highlanders 16 (Try to Daniel Lienert-Brown; conversion and 3 penalties to Mitch Hunt)

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