As so often has been the case in Super Rugby Aotearoa this year it was Damian McKenzie who provided the final touch of brilliance to see the Chiefs narrowly escape upset against a gutsy Hurricanes.

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The visitors produced a display built on tenacity and nerve and blew the Chiefs away in the first ten with slick offloading leading to a James Blackwell try.

Despite the dominance of the heavier Chiefs pack at scrum time, the Canes hung on throughout and even took the lead with ten to go.

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Three of the most destructive midfielders in New Zealand schoolboy rugby history

It was not to be, however, and right on schedule up popped McKenzie to slot the game winner from 45 metres out and break Hurricanes hearts.

1. XAVIER NUMIA – 5

Struggled against a staunch Chiefs scrum and was schooled somewhat by Ta’avao. Did show glimpses of the exceptional pace he possesses to scramble back in defence but in his haste conceded a penalty early on in the second half for offside leading to a defensive scrum five. Went off for blood on 47 minutes, came back and played a further seven minutes before being replaced on 64 by Rakere-Stones.

2. DANE COLES (c) – 6

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Fairly quiet day for the Hurricanes captain who recently locked in his future with the Wellington franchise for two more years. Threw efficiently at lineout time and was an energetic presence in the first ten minutes, the best period of play for the Canes, but maybe lacked the spark that has come to be expected from him. Off at 54 for Aumua.

3. TYREL LOMAX – 5

Showed real deftness in his handling to tip on to Blackwell for the Canes’ early try but went on to endure a torrid time of it in the scrums against a pumped up and dangerously in form Aidan Ross. Off after 64 for Fidow.

4. JAMES BLACKWELL – 5

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There is no sight in rugby quite like a lock at full chat twenty metres out from the opposition try line. Hit a fantastic line off Lomax to charge in and produced a fairly outrageous step to evade three tacklers and dot down. Fairly efficient from then on in at lineout time but replaced early after 49 minutes.

5. SCOTT SCRAFTON – 5

Worked in his pods and warmed the hands with a handful of passes. Ensured 100 per cent success for the Canes at lineout time and disruptive at the Chiefs lineout. Had the legs and doggedness to play 70 minutes for Liam Mitchell.

6. REED PRINSEP – 5

Shared the back-row responsibilities, complementing Kirifi well and filling in on the rare occasions his teammate was absent from a ruck. Not afraid to put in the hard yards as well making ten tackles and being the defensive leader for the Canes against an opposition packed with talent. Quite poor use of his captain’s referral on essentially a textbook clear-out on Love.

7. DU’PLESSIS KIRIFI – 7

The undeniable work horse of this Hurricanes team and leads from the front. Got through the most tackles for his side with 12 and has a dangerous talent for chopping players down like a tree surgeon. Gave away a vital penalty for holding on at 78 minutes turning the tide for the Chiefs and then conceded a knock on. Could have been referred for that infringement albeit in a position more challenging than McKenzie’s eventual game winner.

8. DEVAN FLANDERS – 7

Clever offloading in the lead up to Blackwell’s try. Made a barnstorming break on 50 minutes as the Hurricanes looked to take the game to the Chiefs and followed it up shortly after with a no look league-esc offload to put Proctor in close to the sticks. Made the most metres of his forward pack.

9. LUKE CAMPBELL – 6

A busy defensive performance from the 26-year-old, tackling well and covering his wingers. Distributed well but unable to match his defensive energy in attack. On the night outclassed by Weber. Off at 71.

10. RUBEN LOVE – 5

A night of ups and downs for the youngster. Covered the Chiefs’ deep kicks very well in the backfield and looked most comfortable when Barrett was with him to help out if needed. At moments his lack of experience was perhaps on show, not finding touch with several kicks and rushing out and crucially missing Gatland leading to the Chiefs second try.

11. SALESI RAYASI – 7

Played with freedom and optimised the Hurricanes attitude towards the game on the night. Showed pace, strength and skill in equal measure. Second only to Barrett in terms of defenders beaten and overall metres made. Shut down by tough Chiefs defence.

12. NGANI LAUMAPE – 5

A relatively quiet performance by his standards, defensively sound but perhaps unable to produce the magic line-busting moments he is capable of that can change games. Had several runs but wasn’t afforded much in the way of gains.

13. PETER UMAGA-JENSEN – 6

The defensive general of the Hurricanes midfield leading the energy in their defensive press. Did well in fronting up to the considerable challenge posed by Lienert-Brown put much like his centre partner was unable to produce much with ball in hand.

14. WES GOOSEN – 5

Had a tough day at the office defending against the truly electric Nanai-Seturo. Was gutsy defensively but missed the most tackles for the Canes on the night and couldn’t seem to buy a way past the Chiefs defence. Made way for Proctor on 49 minutes.

15. JORDIE BARRETT – 5

The barometer of this Canes team. When he’s on, the whole team is on. Once again showed he can be a genuine weapon for the All Blacks slotting another long-distance penalty. Will make for an interesting selection headache for Foster at 15 come June. Made double the metres of the next highest performer and was perfect off the tee. At times pulls this team by the scruff of its neck towards competing. Classy touch to admit his knock on and spare the inevitable barrage of TMO reviews.

REPLACEMENTS:

16. ASAFO AUMUA – 7

A cannonball of a man, instantly provided grunt off the back off the Hurricanes lineout scoring on 68 minutes, just five minutes after coming on. Possesses the guile and sheer explosiveness to make the Hurricanes lineout a real weapon and shows real intelligence in choosing his moment to power over.

17. POURI RAKERE-STONES

Replaced Numia on 64 minutes. Went about his work making his tackles but served no better than his teammate at scrum time. Conceded a penalty for being in front of the kicker perhaps harshly but such ‘harmless’ penalties are becoming common and was the theme of this defeat.

18. ALEX FIDOW – N/A

Introduced at 64 minutes but unable to make real impact with only one run.

19. ISAIA WALKER-LEAWERE – 6

On at 49 mins. Huge turnover on his own 20m in the last 5 minutes with the pressure on and made good metres with ball in hands. Didn’t offer much difference ultimately.

20. LIAM MITCHELL – N/A

On at 70 mins.

21. BRAYDEN lOSE – N/A

On at 73 minutes. Had a couple of runs but unable to close out the game.

22. CAM ROIGARD – N/A

On at 70 for Campbell into the thick of an intense battle.

23. BILLY PROCTOR – 7

Showed dynamic running and rewarded with a try. Also featured as an effective kicking option. Made an important interception on 75 minutes but fared no better in his defence of Nanai-Seturo.

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