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27 unanswered points in the second half has seen the Gallagher Chiefs come from behind for a thrilling 41-28 win over the Bulls in their first home match of 2018 at FMG Stadium Waikato.

The first 40 minutes belonged to the visitors, who showed their intent to play attractive running rugby and were rewarded with four tries, before the Gallagher Chiefs recovered superbly from a 14-point halftime deficit which leaves them with two wins and a loss from their opening three matches.

After a promising Gallagher Chiefs attack inside the opening 30 seconds, it was the visitors who got off to a flying start with a brilliant set piece try from near halfway in just the third minute, finished off nicely in the left-hand corner by fullback Warrick Gelant.

First five Handre Pollard nailed the conversion from out wide and the early points gave the Bulls great confidence, keeping ball in hand whenever possible and forcing the Chiefs to do plenty of defending in the opening stages.

However, a poor lineout then gave the Chiefs an opportunity to break downfield and they took full advantage. First five Tiaan Falcon's grubber kick was not covered by the defence and second five Johnny Fa'auli was on hand to pick up and cross the line, with fullback Damian McKenzie adding the extras to tie the scores.

A fine response from the Bulls saw them patiently build pressure once more on the Chiefs defence, working their way towards the line and eventually getting over with wing Divan Rossouw doing superbly to get the ball down in the tackle. Pollard was again on target from the sideline with his conversion to restore the seven-point lead.

Thanks to a mounting penalty count in their favour, the Bulls continued to enjoy all of the territory and possession, which led to their third try of the night as centre Jesse Kriel made a break and found Rossouw who dotted down for a second time.

Play began to open up as the match passed the half hour mark, with the Bulls continuing to look lively on attack but the Chiefs finally getting their hands on the ball more often.

Searching for points late in the half to get them back into the contest, the Chiefs forwards took it upon themselves to grind their way towards the line with lock Brodie Retallick the man to crash over for the five points.

McKenzie converted to make it 21-14 to the Bulls, but the response from the visitors just a minute later was simply stunning - a kick return by replacement halfback Embrose Papier split the Chiefs defence open with Kriel drawing the last defender for Pollard to score a fine try under the posts.

From the restart, the Bulls won a penalty and cleared to touch to go into the halftime break with a surprise, but very much deserved, 14-point lead.

The Chiefs started the second half fired up and immediately swung onto attack from a Retallick offload and strong run by McKenzie. After turning down a simple penalty attempt at goal, the resulting lineout saw lock Mitchell Brown get into good body position close to the line and he burrowed his way over.

Once again, the reply from the visitors was strong, with back to back chances deep in Chiefs territory seeing them go desperately close to adding a fifth try, but the defence from the home side was able to force two crucial turnovers.

This was followed by another moment of Chiefs magic as loose forward Lachlan Boshier won a turnover to launch an attack from inside his own half. A weaving run from McKenzie got the Bulls back-tracking with the ball quickly moved wide to Retallick, and the big lock went on a rampaging run from 30 metres out, throwing a dummy and running over several defenders for a sensational try - his second of the match.

McKenzie's conversion drifted wide to leave the Bulls clinging on to a two-point lead with just over a quarter of the match remaining.

As they had done right throughout the night, the visitors responded strongly to conceding points, scoring a brilliant counter attacking try but it was to be ruled out for obstruction, and proved to be a pivotal moment in the match.

Some frantic play from both sides then ended in the Chiefs winning a kickable penalty, and McKenzie made no mistake to put his side in front for the first time in the match.

Momentum was now with the Chiefs and, as they charged onto attack again, the Bulls were dealt a blow with replacement prop Conraad van Vuuren yellowed carded for a late tackle on McKenzie.

With time winding down the Chiefs were looking hungry for more points to give them breathing space, and from a set piece Fa'auli placed a pin point cross kick for wing Solomon Alaimalo to latch onto, beating the cover defence to score.

Shortly after the restart Alaimalo was nearly in again, bundled into touch just a metre short after a nice break from replacement halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.

The good field position allowed the Chiefs to finish strongly, but a knock on gave the Bulls one last chance with the final play of the game. As they looked to run it out from inside their own 22, they coughed up possession right on their own goal line and centre Anton Lienert-Brown was able to end the match with the Chiefs sixth try.

Gallagher Chiefs 41 (Brodie Retallick 2, Johnny Fa'auli, Mitchell Brown, Solomon Alaimalo, Anton Lienert-Brown tries; Damian McKenzie 4 cons, pen) Bulls 28 (Divan Rossouw 2, Warrick Gelant, Handre Pollard tries; Handre Pollard 4 cons) HT: 14-28.

Next up for the Gallagher Chiefs is a trip to Japan for their first ever away match against the Sunwolves in Tokyo, on Saturday 24 March at 5.15pm.

The Gallagher Chiefs are back in action this Friday when they take on the Bulls in the first exciting home clash of the season at FMG Stadium Waikato. The home side have had a week to recoup with a bye last week, after they managed a gruelling 27-21 win over northern neighbours the Blues in round three.
Head Coach Colin Cooper was thrilled for the team to be able to run out in front of the passionate home support.
“We are really looking forward to playing in front of our passionate home fans for the first time in the 2018 Investec Super Rugby season. The players have had a bye last week and are excited to go again and build on our last result against the Blues. I’m proud of how our players all played for each other last time out, and we will look to again improve against tough South African opposition. The team can’t wait to have the home fans behind them.”   
Cooper has made four changes to the starting fifteen who competed against the Blues nearly a fortnight ago. There are three changes in the forward pack with Angus Ta’avao replacing the injured Nepo Laulala at tighthead, Mitchell Brown coming in to partner Brodie Retallick and the impressive Lachlan Boshier moving into the loose forwards. Exciting youngster Tiaan Falcon is rewarded a start at first-five eighth after impressing the coaches against the Blues when he was a late injury replacement for Shaun Stevenson.
Angus Ta’avao and Sean Wainui both start, having come in as confirmed injury replacements for Atu Moli and Tim Nanai-Williams for the rest of the season. Wainui played a starring role in the win against the Blues, topped off with a great try, while Ta’avao made a good impact off the bench. Both players impressed throughout the pre-season, catching the eye of the coaches with their hard work and determination.
It is a special night for Bay of Plenty prop Jeff Thwaites who could make his Investec Super Rugby debut off the bench.
Fans can purchase tickets from www.ticketdirect.co.nz, with prices starting from only $21 for adults and $11 for child. Kickoff is at 7:35pm this Friday at FMG Stadium Waikato.
The Gallagher Chiefs team to take on the Bulls is:
1. Aidan Ross (8)
2. Nathan Harris (33)
3. Angus Ta’avao (2)
4. Brodie Retallick (86)
5. Mitchell Brown (20)
6. Lachlan Boshier (21)
7. Sam Cane (97)
8. Liam Messam (164)
9. Brad Weber (44)
10. Tiaan Falcon (1)
11. Solomon Alaimalo (11)
12. Johnny Fa’auli (8)
13. Anton Lienert-Brown (42)
14. Sean Wainui (2)
15. Damian McKenzie (52)

16. Liam Polwart (8)
17. Karl Tu’inukuafe (1)
18. Jeff Thwaites (0)
19. Michael Allardice (23)
20. Luke Jacobson (1)
21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (2)
22. Marty McKenzie (8)
23. Declan O’Donnell (1)
Unavailable for selection: Dominic Bird, Tim Nanai-Williams, Charlie Ngatai, Fin Hoeata, Alex Nankivell, Regan Verney, Mitchell Graham, Sosefo Kautai, Sam McNicol, Atu Moli, Kane Hames, Nepo Laulala, Taleni Seu, Shaun Stevenson

Fan-favourite Damian McKenzie has re-signed with the Gallagher Chiefs, extending his contract with New Zealand Rugby and the Chiefs Rugby Club for a further three years until the end of 2021.

Gallagher Chiefs head coach Colin Cooper was delighted to be able to continue to work with Damian.

“I’m really excited that Damian has re-signed with the club for the next three years.  He’s a great player with great character and brings a lot of confidence and stability to the team.  The contract extension shows Damian’s long-term commitment to the Chiefs and I’m thrilled to be working with him.”

Damian was excited to sign on for the next three years in New Zealand.

“It’s a really exciting opportunity to have signed on for three more years. My time in the Chiefs jersey has been awesome to date and the support I’ve been given during my time in Chiefs Country has been amazing. I’ve had an awesome opportunity to be able to sign on with New Zealand Rugby and hopefully keep achieving higher honours in the future.”

The 22-year old has 52 Chiefs caps, making his debut in 2015 against the Blues. Damian is adored by the fans everywhere he goes and is a proud ambassador for First Windows & Doors, one of the Chiefs Rugby Club’s major sponsor partners.

Damian has gone from strength to strength in Chiefs colours, lighting up the competition with his majestical runs, and becoming one of the true standout players in Investec Super Rugby.  In 2016 his stellar form was rewarded where he was given the black jersey in Buenos Aires to take on Argentina.

The versatile back has constantly excelled on the field, and has taken extra responsibility with the goal kicking duties which he’s thrived at.

2017 was a landmark year in McKenzie’s career.  Outstanding performances in Investec Super Rugby resulted in him winning Coaches Player of the Year at the 2017 Chiefs Awards, and Damian went on to be a prominent figure in the All Blacks camp, earning 10 caps throughout the International season.  He also featured at First Five Eighth for the Maori All Blacks against the British & Irish Lions in June.

The impressive playmaker has numerous individual accolades to his name, including winning the 2017 New Zealand Age Group Player of the Year at the 2014 Steinlager Rugby Awards, as well as Waikato Emerging Representative of the Year in 2014 and Waikato Sportsman of the Year in 2017.

Thanks to our Whanau for all your concern regarding our player injuries.  Here’s an update on where they are at.  Please leave your messages of support on our Facebook post for the players to read. 

Shaun Stevenson – injured his knee in the warm-up and will be assessed this week

Nepo Laulala – fractured forearm requiring surgery and is expected to be out for 8-12 weeks

Brodie Retallick – withdrew from Friday’s match after getting a poke in the eye at training.  He has completely recovered and will be available for selection next week

Atunaisa Moli – had complications from a quad hematoma which required surgery.  Atu has been ruled out for the season.

Tim Nanai-Williams – had surgery on Friday to stabilise his shoulder.  Tim has been ruled out for the season.

A gutsy come from behind performance by the injury depleted Gallagher Chiefs has seen them come away from Eden Park with a 27-21 win over the Blues for their first win of the Investec Super Rugby season.

The Gallagher Chiefs travelled to Auckland with no less than 15 players unavailable for selection due to injury, which was made even worse by the late withdrawals of Brodie Retallick and Shaun Stevenson, causing reshuffles in both the forwards and backs just minutes before kick-off. But an inspired 15 minutes to start the second half helped them overturn a halftime deficit for a thrilling four tries to three win.

Following the pre-game disruptions, the opening minutes were just what the Chiefs needed as they showed encouraging signs on attack with most of the team getting their hands on the ball.

However, it was the home side who struck first, working their way downfield with hooker James Parsons and halfback Augustine Pulu combining close to the line for the first try of the night.

Damian McKenzie, after missing a simple penalty attempt, then sparked a dangerous Chiefs attack, finding wing Solomon Alaimalo after a strong kick return. The play broke down close to the line but they capitalised on the good field position moments later with Number 8 Taleni Seu dotting down following a good carry from wing Sean Wainui.

The middle of the first half was dominated by the Blues and, after holding on desperately for several minutes, the Chiefs defence was breached again with Number 8 Akira Ioane charging his way to and over the line from 20 metres out.

Once more there was an instant response from the Chiefs with Alaimalo setting Anton Lienert-Brown clear down the left sideline, and two phases later Lienert-Brown found Wainui who broke through the last defender and scored in the corner.

More good field position followed for the Chiefs and back to back penalties saw them apply plenty of pressure on the Blues line, but the home side were stern in defence.

The final 10 minutes of the first half was physical and highly entertaining, with plenty of big tackles and long-range attacks from both sides, but in the end neither team added to their earlier scoring and the Blues took a four-point lead into the break.

A brilliant break out in the first 30 seconds of the second half saw the Chiefs go very close to scoring, coming up just inches from the line on a number of occasions, and a ruck penalty allowed the Blues to clear.

Tiaan Falcon, a late replacement following the injury to Shaun Stevenson, then showed a touch of class to slip through a gap but the final pass was lost in the tackle.

The early dominance from the Chiefs finally turned into points with a rolling maul seeing flanker Sam Cane get it down over the line to put his side in front, with McKenzie's conversion making it a three-point lead.

From the restart, a loose Blues offload was pounced on by halfback Brad Weber and he scampered away from the halfway line for a second Chiefs try in as many minutes. A McKenzie penalty soon after made it 17 unanswered points in the first 15 minutes of the second half.

Desperately needing a reply to the Chiefs flurry of points, a patient build up from the Blues was eventually finished off with a nice dummy close to the line from first five Bryn Gatland, and he converted his own try from under the posts to narrow the Chiefs lead to six.

With the Blues sensing their opportunity against a tiring Chiefs defence, they went on the attack once more but conceded a scrum penalty which relieved the danger as the match headed into the final 10 minutes.

As time began to run out for the Blues they continued to apply pressure but timely turnovers by the Chiefs, and some brilliant tactical kicking for field position by McKenzie, ensured they kept their slim lead intact.

A penalty with two minutes remaining for an early tackle then gave the home side a great chance with a lineout starting 20 metres from the try line, but a collapsed maul yet again earned the Chiefs a crucial turnover.

Just needing to clear to touch to end the game, the Chiefs then managed to turn the ball over themselves to set up a frantic finish, which was finally ended when a Blues lineout was thrown not straight to end a pulsating match.

Gallagher Chiefs 27 (Taleni Seu, Sean Wainui, Sam Cane, Brad Weber tries; Damian McKenzie 2 cons, pen) Blues 21 (Augustine Pulu, Akira Ioane, Bryn Gatland tries; Gatland 3 cons) HT: 10-14.

The Gallagher Chiefs now get a chance to sort out some of their injury problems as they head into a bye week, before hosting the Bulls at FMG Stadium Waikato for their opening home game of the season on Friday 16 March.

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Sam Cane
Full Name: Sam Cane
Team: Chiefs
Position:Loose forward
Super Rugby Games:95
Super Rugby Points:60 (12t)
Super Rugby Debut:2011 v Lions in Johannesburg
Province:Bay of Plenty
Provincial Games:19
Provincial Points:25 (5t)
Provincial Debut:2010 v Auckland in Mt Maunganui
Test Caps:50
Test Points:60 (12t)
Test Debut:2012 v Ireland in Christchurch
Facebook ID:456670991114990
Twitter Username:SamCane7
Youtube:Sam Cane

"A player with immense talent and leadership qualities, Sam has been a vital member of the squad for the past seven seasons. Sam has been co-captain of the team with Aaron for the past two seasons."- The Chiefs

Sam enters his seventh season with the Chiefs and is a key part of the team’s leadership co-captaining the side for the third successive season.  On the back of a stellar Super Rugby season in 2016 he collected  the Chiefs Players’ Player of the Year and showed many mature performances in his role as co-captain.   

The talented loose forward has won two Investec Super Rugby titles, the 2015 Rugby World Cup, a U20 Junior World Championship gold medal and is a former New Zealand Rugby Age Group Player of the Year.

If you weren’t a rugby player, what would you be doing?
Guitarist in a rock band

Who was your favourite player as a kid?
Jeff Wilson

What event would you go to the Olympics for … No sevens allowed!
Beach Volleyball

Favourite sportsperson outside rugby?
Roger Federer

Forwards- What position would you put yourself in the backline and why?
Backs- What position would you put yourself in the forward pack and why?

Second Five

What’s your go to meal in the kitchen?
Creamy Chicken Fettucine

What’s your mum’s best meal for her boy?
Roast Lamb

Who is the best singer in the team?
Nathan Harris

Favourite movie quote?
Life is a game of inches, so is football –Al Pacino-Any given Sunday

What would you spend your last $10 on?
Two handles of beer for me and a mate

2018 Investec Super Rugby Table

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