March 15, 2019

Gallagher Chiefs draw with Hurricanes

After uniting in a pre-match huddle to acknowledge the Christchurch tragedy the Gallagher Chiefs and Hurricanes have played out a classic New Zealand derby, drawing 23-23 at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton.

Despite not quite registering their first win of 2019, after four straight losses to start the season, the Chiefs will take plenty of positives away from what was a much-improved performance, ahead of their South Africa and Argentina road trip.

In-form midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown got the Chiefs off to the perfect start when he charged down a Chase Tiatia kick and raced away to score just 70 seconds into the match.

Damian McKenzie, shifted to fullback for this match, was on target with the conversion for a very early 7-0 lead.

A strong reply from the visitors asked plenty of questions of the Chiefs defence, but they held firm to restrict them to just a Beauden Barrett penalty, making it 7-3 in favour of the Chiefs after the opening 10 minutes.

It wasn't long before the Hurricanes worked their way inside the Chiefs 22 once more, and this time they were able to breach the Chiefs line, with Beauden Barrett giving a short pass to centre Matt Proctor who crashed his way through a couple of tackles to score.

Play continued to swing from end to end as the Chiefs then launched an attack from deep inside their own half, with some slick passing ending up in the hands of Damian McKenzie who showed great pace from near halfway to outsprint the defence and cross the line.

McKenzie converted his own try to put the Chiefs back in front, 14-10, at the end of an entertaining first quarter.

The middle stages of the first half were an even contest with both defences tightening up, before Hurricanes wing Jordie Barrett and McKenzie traded long range penalties as halftime approached.

A strong finish to the first 40 minutes from the Chiefs ended in another penalty chance for McKenzie, and he made no mistake to stretch the Chiefs halftime lead out to 20-13.

Beauden Barrett was able to quickly narrow the gap with an early penalty as the visitors started the second half well, looking threatening with ball in hand.

At the 50-minute mark they turned that good start into further points, with Chase Tiatia making a line break and finding Wes Goosen with an accurate floating pass, and the winger finished in the left hand corner.

The Goosen try was backed up by another Beauden Barrett conversion, and the Hurricanes were back in front once more, 23-20.

However, just minutes later the scores were tied when McKenzie unleashed a whopping penalty kick from inside his own half.

As the match moved into the final quarter, the even contest stepped up a level in intensity with some exciting rugby being played at great pace from both teams.

McKenzie had a chance to nudge his side back in front with 15 minutes remaining, but a rare miss kept the scores level.

With time running out, it seemed like one mistake, or one moment of brilliance, would decide the match, and a handling error in his own in-goal by Marty McKenzie gave the Hurricanes the perfect opportunity. But the visitors were unable to capitalise, knocking the ball on just metres from the line.

It took the Chiefs several minutes to clear the danger, and when they did, a kicking error from Jordie Barrett gave the home side good field position with two minutes remaining. But like the Hurricanes before them, a handling error ended their attack.

With time up on the clock and the Hurricanes in possession, a Chiefs turnover gave them one last chance to snatch the win. They got to within 20 metres of the Hurricanes line but the ball was lost and the match was drawn - a fair result in a very even match.

Gallagher Chiefs 23 (Anton Lienert-Brown, Damian McKenzie tries; Damian McKenzie 2 cons, 3 pens)
Hurricanes 23 (Matt Proctor, Wes Goosen tries; Beauden Barrett 2 cons, 2 pens, Jordie Barrett pen) HT: 20-13.

The Gallagher Chiefs now head overseas for their next two matches, taking on the Bulls in Pretoria (Sunday 24 March, kick off 2.05am NZ time) and the Jaguares in Buenos Aires (Sunday 31 March, kick off 10.40am NZ time).

Gallagher Chiefs draw with Hurricanes