Julian Savea of the Hurricanes fends Tim Nanai-Williams of
the Chiefs. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
If the defending Super 15 champions thought they would be
able to pick up where they left off last year, the Chiefs were
given a good reminder that it doesn't work like that.
They might have beaten the Hurricanes 25-21 in their final
pre-season match at Mangatainoka but it's fair to say the Tui
beer was flowing more easily than the rugby. Dave Rennie's
side led 10-0 at halftime and 17-0 early in the second half
but had to withstand a strong Hurricanes fightback to cling
on for a narrow win.
The Hurricanes might even have fancied their chances of
victory when they reduced the gap to 22-21 with 10 minutes
remaining but former Blues first five-eighths Gareth
Anscombe, playing at fullback, slotted a penalty to settle
"I think we got a little of a hurry-up today," Chiefs
assistant coach Andrew Strawbridge said. "The Hurricanes were
pretty organised and we have been sent away with a little bit
to think about, which is not a bad thing."
The Chiefs open their season in Dunedin on Friday against a
Highlanders outfit who have recruited well in the off-season
and last year's winners will also have to do it with a few of
their backs missing.
Andrew Horrell (foot) is out for a few weeks, Charlie Ngati
is struggling with a groin injury and Richard Kahui also
underwent shoulder surgery recently to clean up the shoulder
he injured last year and is battling to be fit for the first
game. Robbie Robinson also missed today's match and Brendon
Leonard is out for another four weeks with a fractured
It saw Tim Nanai-Williams start at centre against the
Hurricanes and he showed some promise, scoring the Chiefs'
last of their four tries.
"Tim had some really bright patches today and did some really
good things and we are a little bit thin in the midfield,"
said Strawbridge, who was also impressed with the set-piece.
"It was important for us that Tim had a game there today and
it went reasonably well."
It didn't go quite so well for the Hurricanes in the first
half. The Chiefs took advantage of a strong wind as well as a
handful of Hurricanes' errors in bad areas, scoring tries to
Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Asaeli Tikoirotuma.
Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett made a handful of changes in
the second spell, with the likes of Ardie Savea and Brad
Shields prominent, and it helped them claw their way back
into the game as they played at a higher tempo.
"They are a world-class defensive side and we should have
scored about three tries [in first half] but we were playing
into the wind and that was a big factor," said Hammett. "But
we're an extremely fit side and we were able to wear them
down in the second half and I was pleased with our
He would also have been buoyed by the sight of captain Conrad
Smith playing his first match of the season and the All
Blacks centre was typically classy playing alongside Tim
"It was my first hit-out of the season and it was nice to get
a bit of a roll on, but I did underestimate how strong the
wind was and how it would affect the game," Smith said. "In
the first half we tried to kick the ball out of our 22 a lot
and it just didn't work."
The Hurricanes open their campaign against the Blues in
Wellington next Saturday.
Hurricanes 21 (Julian Savea, Ardie Savea, Faifili Levave
tires; James Marshall 2 cons, Beauden Barrett con) Chiefs 25
(Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Bundee Aki, Tim
Nanai-Williams tries; Gareth Anscombe pen, con). HT: 0-10.