By Nick Mulvenney SYDNEY (Reuters) – Waikato Chiefs downed the Auckland Blues to remain unbeaten at the top of the Super Rugby Pacific standings after six matches, but the Wellington Hurricanes edged the Western Force to keep up the chase behind them in the final match of the round. Former Blues winger Emoni Narawa scored […]
Rugby-Chiefs remain unbeaten as Hurricanes, Brumbies lead the chase
By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Waikato Chiefs downed the Auckland Blues to remain unbeaten at the top of the Super Rugby Pacific standings after six matches, but the Wellington Hurricanes edged the Western Force to keep up the chase behind them in the final match of the round.
Former Blues winger Emoni Narawa scored two tries in the first half in Hamilton to help the Chiefs extend their winning streak from the start of the season to a record six matches with a 20-13 victory over last year’s losing finalists.
Damian McKenzie was again outstanding at flyhalf for the Chiefs while All Blacks playmaker Beauden Barrett had a game to forget on a rainy night at Waikato Stadium, kicking poorly and butchering a try.
Caleb Clarke scored one of the two first-half tries for the visitors but the powerful winger knocked on going for a second score that would have given the Blues a chance to level up the contest in the dying seconds.
The Blues blanked the Chiefs 25-0 in Hamilton last season as they racked up a 15-match winning streak on their way to the final and Chiefs co-captain Brad Weber said Saturday was all about revenge.
“We owed these guys one after last year,” he said. “They embarrassed us on our home turf so you could see the desperation in the defence in the second half. That was what that was all about.”
The Chiefs top the standings on 27 points with the Hurricanes in second place on 23 and the ACT Brumbies third a further two points back.
The reigning champion Canterbury Crusaders ended the weekend in fourth on 19 points after their injury-weakened team ground out a 25-12 win over a poor Queensland Reds team in Brisbane on Friday.
The Hurricanes have been scoring points for fun this season and another five tries saw them outlast a strong-finishing Force team 45-42 in Palmerston North on Sunday.
The Perth-based Force took a little gloss off the win with two late tries that denied the Hurricanes a fourth bonus point of the season, however.
The Brumbies, who fell to their first loss of the season against the Crusaders last week, were just happy to get a win after trailing the Waratahs for much of Saturday night in Canberra.
The Waratahs dominated the first half and led 33-21 with 20 minutes remaining but flying winger Corey Toole raced in for a try three minutes from time to give the Brumbies an 11th straight win over their biggest rivals.
The Drua produced the best first-half performance of the weekend, however, running in five tries in the first 28 minutes in front of a packed house in Suva.
That gave them enough of a cushion to see out a second-half comeback from the Rebels and back up their historic win over the Crusaders in their previous home match in Fiji.
Moana Pasifika remained without a win after a 45-17 loss to the Otago Highlanders in Auckland on Friday.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)
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Tue, May 23, 2023