March 24, 2018

Comprehensive bonus point win for the Gallagher Chiefs in Tokyo

Photo Credit: KAORI MATSUMOTO (Japan Rugby Magazine)

The Gallagher Chiefs have come away from their first ever match in Japan with a comprehensive 61-10 win over the Sunwolves at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo.

After jumping out to a 28-point lead thanks to four tries in the opening quarter, the Chiefs were always in control in a dominant all round display, finishing with nine tries in total and taking the full five competition points back to New Zealand, improving their season record to three wins and a loss.

It didn't take long for the Chiefs to make their mark on the match, charging down field with nearly everyone getting their hands on the ball in opening stages, and eventually wing Toni Pulu offloaded inside to lock Tyler Ardron who crossed for the first try in the fifth minute of play.

In good conditions, both teams were keen to play an expansive game but it was the Chiefs who looked better when in possession with some simple errors letting the home side down.

Solomon Alaimalo then went close to a second try for the Chiefs, after a good run by fellow wing Pulu, but the ball was lost in the tackle just metres from the line.

From the resulting scrum, a huge push from the Chiefs earned a turnover and then penalty, with lock Brodie Retallick barging his way over after a quick tap was taken to score his third try in two weeks.

Soon after the Chiefs were in again with a nicely worked lineout move seeing halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi deliver a pass back to an unmarked Nathan Harris who had a clear run to the line from 10 metres out.

First five Damian McKenzie then split the defence with a run that started inside his own 22, with Tahuriorangi in support who drew the last defender for Alaimalo to go over under the posts and score the Chiefs fourth try.

Damian McKenzie's fourth conversion made it a comfortable 28-0 lead after just 20 minutes.

After defending for most of the first quarter, the Sunwolves finally managed to get some better field position but, after several minutes of pressure on the Chiefs defence, the visitors were able to clear the danger.

With their hands back on the ball the Chiefs worked their way downfield but this time were met by a more organised Sunwolves defence.

Out of nowhere the Sunwolves then broke clear down the right wing with former Chief Michael Leitch making a good run before handing off to wing Semisi Masirewa who showed nice footwork to beat two defenders and score.

Their first points of the day gave the Sunwolves confidence and late in the half they pushed towards the line once more, but a timely turnover for the Chiefs saw them win a penalty and clear to touch to take a 28-5 lead into the halftime break.

The Sunwolves came out flying in the second half with big wing Hosea Saumaki getting the ball near halfway, fending off one defender and sprinting clear around another for a brilliant solo try just 70 seconds after the resumption of play.

Just minutes later there was a response from the Chiefs with McKenzie throwing a pin point cut out pass to Pulu who burst clear down the sideline before giving the ball back inside for McKenzie to score.

After another good period on attack for the Sunwolves came a superb counter attacking try from the Chiefs, as Ardron was put into space and ran 60 metres before two quick offloads ended in the hands of Alaimalo, and the in-form winger had too much pace and went over for his second try.

As substitutions came on from both sides for the final quarter the game began to open up and, just as the Sunwolves were looking dangerous on attack, a turnover was followed by a well-placed kick over the top into space from Tahuriorangi, gladly accepted by McKenzie for his second try.

McKenzie continued to show his class as he set up the Chiefs eighth try of the match, taking the ball to line and delivering a perfect pass onto the chest of replacement hooker Liam Polwart who broke through to score next to the posts.

The first five was not done yet as he continued his dominant performance, placing a chip kick over the top of a rushing defence for replacement Sean Wainui to run onto and score.

After he added his eighth conversion, to go along with his two tries, McKenzie finished with a personal haul of 26 points.

With the final play of the game the Sunwolves looked to have the last say as they attacked deep into Chiefs territory, but the ball was lost to end an entertaining match full of running rugby.

Gallagher Chiefs 61 (Solomon Alaimalo 2, Damian McKenzie 2, Tyler Ardron, Brodie Retallick, Nathan Harris, Liam Polwart, Sean Wainui tries; Damian McKenzie 8 cons) Sunwolves 10 (Semisi Masirewa, Hosea Saumaki tries) HT: 28-5.

The Gallagher Chiefs now return home for a New Zealand derby match against the Highlanders at FMG Stadium Waikato on Friday 30 March (kick off 7.35pm).

Comprehensive bonus point win for the Gallagher Chiefs in Tokyo