July 07, 2018

Gallagher Chiefs secure victory over brave Brumbies side

The Gallagher Chiefs have continued their march towards the Investec Super Rugby playoffs, hanging on for a valuable 24-19 win over a gutsy Brumbies side at FMG Stadium Waikato.

After jumping out to a 17-0 at halftime thanks to some lethal attacking movements producing two great team tries, the Gallagher Chiefs were made to work right up to the final whistle as a gallant comeback from the Brumbies came up just short.

Both sides made a strong start to the match with the opening ten minutes an even contest for field position played at a good pace. Eventually it was the Gallagher Chiefs who got on the scoreboard first with first five Damian McKenzie on target with his first kick of the night.

Some promising attacking movements followed for the Gallagher Chiefs, with McKenzie in particular looking dangerous whenever he touched the ball, but some simple errors prevented them from really threatening the Brumbies line.

After a long period of dominance in possession and territory, a patient build up finally led to the opening try of the evening. A half break from second five Charlie Ngatai got the Chiefs on the front foot, and then a quick pass from the ruck to a charging Nathan Harris saw the hooker burrow his way over the line. McKenzie added the extras to make it a 10-0 lead after 25 minutes.

Following the Harris try the Brumbies managed to get themselves into the game and asked some questions of the Chiefs defence but then, against the run of play, a Chiefs turnover led to a superb long-range counter attacking try. McKenzie initiated the move with pass behind his back that set halfback Brad Weber into space and, after the ball moved through several sets of hands, it was fittingly McKenzie who split the defence apart from 20 metres out to score a wonderful try.

There was a great response from the visitors as the launched downfield once more, following a clean break from first five Christian Lealiifano, but as they reached the try line the ball was knocked on by lock Rory Arnold.

The first half ended with the Brumbies again looking good, but a knock on just as they were gathering momentum summed up the first 40 minutes for the visitors.

Despite the 17-point deficit, the Brumbies produced a gutsy first 15 minutes of the second half, controlling possession well and testing the Chiefs defence. The pressure eventually told when, in the 55th minute, some quick hands down the right-hand sideline found wing Henry Speight who crossed in the corner.

From the restart, the Brumbies launched downfield and very nearly got their second try in as many minutes, but the play broke down just metres from the line.

Then, as the Brumbies continued to hammer away at the Gallagher Chiefs line, Damian McKenzie snatched a timely intercept. After an 80 metre sprint he was caught by Brumbies fullback Tom Banks, but a couple of phases later the Chiefs were in as a replacement Marty McKenzie and Johnny Fa'auli combined - with McKenzie's well weighted chip kick gathered by Fa'auli who scored under the posts.

All of a sudden, the Chiefs lead was back out to 17 points, and the Brumbies comeback effort was back to where it had started at halftime.

The Brumbies continued to show plenty of character and were rewarded with a well worked try in the 71st minute - replacement first five Wharenui Hawera taking on the line and making a break which was nicely finished off by fullback Tom Banks.

The visitors backed that up with their third try just two minutes later as Henry Speight received the ball from a lineout and found space to score his second of the night, narrowing the Chiefs lead to just five and setting up a dramatic final few minutes.

Damian McKenzie had a chance to take it beyond a converted try in the 78th minute but his penalty attempt drifted wide, giving the Brumbies one last chance to snatch a dramatic win. They got to within 20 metres of the Chiefs line but, with the Chiefs defence scrambling, the ball was lost, allowing the Chiefs to clear form the resulting scrum to seal the win.

Gallagher Chiefs 24 (Nathan Harris, Damian McKenzie, Johnny Fa'auli tries; Damian McKenzie 3 cons, pen) Brumbies 19 (Henry Speight 2, Tom Banks tries; Wharenui Hawera 2 cons) HT: 17-0.

The Gallagher Chiefs will now prepare for their final round robin game of 2018, back at home again on Friday night against the Hurricanes (July 13, 7.35pm).

Gallagher Chiefs secure victory over brave Brumbies side