April 07, 2018

Gallagher Chiefs claim victory in Battle of the Bombays

A dramatic penalty try with just six minutes remaining has seen the Gallagher Chiefs scrape past the Blues 21-19 at FMG Stadium Waikato for their fifth straight win of the 2018 Investec Super Rugby season.

In their second local derby against the Blues this season, the Gallagher Chiefs dominated possession and territory but found themselves trailing late in the match until their dominant scrum, with a one-man advantage, was eventually awarded what turned out to be a match winning penalty try in the 74th minute.

Early on saw a positive start for the visitors, right from the opening kick-off, as they won a ruck penalty with first five Stephen Perofeta stepping up and making no mistake from in front for an early lead.

This was followed by some controlled possession from the Blues, as they clearly looked determined to make amends for some poor recent performances, and the period of play ended in another penalty for Perofeta from 40 metres out to give his side a 6-0 lead after the opening five minutes.

Like they have done all season, the Gallagher Chiefs responded well to conceding points, and they charged downfield to put pressure on the Blues defence for the first time in the match. A penalty was eventually conceded by the Blues and first five Damian McKenzie got the home side on the scoreboard with his first kick of the night.

More good territory for the Chiefs saw them launch a set piece play from midfield, with fullback Solomon Alaimalo testing the defence before McKenzie showed quick hands with a pass over the top that put Sean Wainui into space, and the in-form winger had a clear run to the line.

The Wainui try saw momentum shift in the Chiefs favour and they dominated the middle stages of the first half, adding a further three points from the boot of McKenzie.

As they struggled to get their hands on the ball the Blues defence was forced to soak up a lot of pressure, before a timely break from Perofeta saw them get down the right end of the field which ended in another penalty kick, and the gap was closed to 11-9 with 12 minutes remaining in the first half.

A brilliant take from the restart by Chiefs lock Tyler Ardron then saw the Chiefs move back inside the Blues 22 and the five-point lead was quickly restored with another McKenzie penalty.

That was to be one of the last acts for McKenzie as he left the field soon after with what looked like a hip injury, replaced by his brother Marty.

With the Chiefs looking to be taking control, the Blues were finally able to get some good field position and against the run of play hooker James Parsons crashed his way over the line.

Perofeta's conversion put the visitors back in front and, with some new found confidence, they worked their way back into Chiefs territory in the final stages of the half and had time for a fourth Perofeta penalty to go into the break with a surprise 19-14 lead.

After a stop start beginning to the second half, a strong break from a kick return by Chiefs Number 8 Pita Gus Sowakula sparked his side into action. However, despite three consecutive penalties and lineout drives close to the line for the Chiefs, some desperate Blues defence saw them hang on and clear the danger.

It wasn't long before the Chiefs were on the attack again, but yet again they were denied by a combination of ball handling and a dedicated scrambling defence, as the match ticked past the three-quarter mark with no points added for either side in the second half.

With some timely substitutions bringing fresh legs into the forward pack, the Chiefs continued to ask questions and the relentless pressure eventually led to a yellow card for Blues lock Josh Goodhue for repeated infringements close to the line.

Following the sin binning was a dramatic period of play as three consecutive dominant scrums by the Chiefs ended in a penalty try for the first points of the second half, with the seven points seeing them go ahead by two with six minutes left.

After enjoying nearly 90% of territory in the second half, the Chiefs were able to continue that dominance and edged back downfield to close the game out with 24 controlled phases before Marty McKenzie cleared to touch to seal the victory.

Gallagher Chiefs 21 (Sean Wainui try, penalty try; Damian McKenzie 3 pens) Blues 19 (James Parsons try; Stephen Perofeta con, 4 pens) HT: 14-19.

Next up for the Gallagher Chiefs is a trip to Wellington to take on the Hurricanes on Friday 13 April in what promises to be another huge New Zealand conference clash.

Gallagher Chiefs claim victory in Battle of the Bombays