VIDEO: McKenzie slots late winner to keep Chiefs in the hunt
SUPER RUGBY AOTEAROA MATCH REPORT: All Black Damian McKenzie slotted an 82nd-minute penalty to steal a win for the Chiefs and keep them in the hunt for a place in the Final.
The Hurricanes outscored their hosts by three tries to two in Hamilton on Friday, but the Chiefs sneaked away with a 26-24 win – thanks to McKenzie’s boot.
The McKenzie winner handed the Chiefs their fifth consecutive victory.
Trailing by one point after the full-time siren, the Chiefs were handed a penalty from a scrum just five metres inside the opposition’s half, giving McKenzie the chance to line up a long-range penalty to clinch the win.
The result keeps the Chiefs in second place and just three points behind the league-leading Crusaders, who face the Blues in Christchurch on Sunday.
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McKenzie has been a key part of the Chiefs’ hot streak and captain Brad Weber praised his composure in key moments after the dramatic win.
“We’ve got to stop doing that, it’s not good for my heart,” Weber said, after a dramatic match in Hamilton.
“He’s been ‘Mr. Clutch’ for us all year so I never had a sliver of doubt, he’s been hitting them all year.”
The Hurricanes entered the match out of contention for a place in the Final and playing for pride, but Weber said the Chiefs also had a point to prove after being written off early in the season.
“It was ugly, and the Hurricanes were probably the better team for a lot of the game,” he said.
“But I’m not surprised where we are right now. I know the work we’ve been putting in and we deserve it.”
The result puts the Chiefs ahead of the Blues in the race for a place in the Final, with the defending champion Crusaders almost certain to reach the decider.
The Hurricanes scored in the first minute when lock James Blackwell broke the defensive line and sprinted away for a try.
The Chiefs hit back with a McKenzie penalty and a try to Pita-Gus Sowakul, who broke away from the base of a scrum to power over the line.
It was 10-all at the break after Jordie Barrett kicked a 55-metre penalty as the half-time siren sounded.
The Chiefs regained the lead with another McKenzie penalty and extended it when Bryn Gatland scooped up Weber’s pass for a converted try.
Hurricanes centre Billy Proctor narrowed the gap to 20-17 after being set up by a run from Devan Flanders, then Asafo Aumua’s try put them in front.
But McKenzie’s penalty from 45 metres out delivered the win for the Chiefs.
Man of the match: For the Hurricanes you had players like Devan Flanders, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Reed Prinsep and Scott Scrafton putting in big shifts. Ngani Laumape was strong, but also erratic, while Jordie Barrett’s booming boot and some strong runs proved valuable to his team. Replacement hooker Asafo Aumua also made a massive impact as a second-half replacement. For the Chiefs Etene Nanai-Seturo also had a few decent runs, Bryn Gatland sparked the Chiefs in the second half, after a so-so first half, while Mitchell Brown and Tupou Vaa’i were also good value. Damian McKenzie was not flawless and made a couple big blunders late in the match, but apart from some great attacking plays, he kicked 16 points – including the late match-winner. Our award goes to Chiefs loose forward Lachlan Boshier – by some distance New Zealand’s best openside flank – winning turnovers, making a match-high 14 tackles and included some strong carries.
For the Chiefs
Tries: Sowakula, Gatland
Cons: McKenzie 2
Pens: McKenzie 4
For the Hurricanes
Tries: Blackwell, Proctor, Aumua
Cons: Barrett 3
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Jonah Lowe, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Brad Weber (captain), 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 4 Tupou Vaa’i, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Samipeni Finau, 20 Kaylum Boshier, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Rameka Poihipi, 23 Chase Tiatia.
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Salesi Rayasi, 10 Ruben Love, 9 Luke Campbell, 8 Devan Flanders, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Xavier Numia.
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Pouri Rakere-Stones, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20 Vaea Fifita, 21 Brayden Lose, 22 Cam Roigard, 23 Billy Proctor.
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe, Mike Fraser
TMO: Glenn Newmann