Chiefs end losing streak with win over Hurricanes

The Chiefs' Damian McKenzie tries to get past Billy Proctor of the Hurricanes. Photo: Getty
The Chiefs' Damian McKenzie tries to get past Billy Proctor of the Hurricanes. Photo: Getty
Bonkers does not do it justice. The Chiefs have pulled off a miraculous second-half comeback to end their year-long losing run at 11 games.

Four second-half tries propelled the Chiefs to an unlikely 35-29 victory over the Hurricanes in Wellington after the visitors trailed 26-7 at halftime.

All Blacks loose forward Luke Jacobson was a standout down the stretch for the Chiefs, scoring the match-winning try and snaffling a turnover penalty that sealed the treasured victory.

Damian McKenzie also proved influential after switching to first five-eighth midway through the second spell.

The Chiefs will be overjoyed to end their losing streak that last week equalled New Zealand Super Rugby's worst run – matching the Highlanders ' 11 losses in a row during their 2012-13 season.

No-one will be more chuffed than Clayton McMillan, the interim Chiefs coach who has managed to stem the bleeding that began under Warren Gatland last year.

The Hurricanes will, conversely, be despondent, wondering how they managed to blow a 19-point advantage to now remain winless after three matches this season.

That the Chiefs secured their first lead in the 68th minute tells you just how hard they had to fight to snap a six-game losing run against the Hurricanes.

Jordie Barrett started the Chiefs' misery last year and did his best to continue it by nailing a long-range penalty in the 74th minute – the locals only points in the second half – to wrestle back a one-point lead, and yet still the Chiefs were good enough to respond.

Four first-half tries for the Hurricanes defied predictions for a tight contest between these two previously winless teams this season.

From there, the Hurricanes should have shut the gate. They will instead rue one that got away, with complacency clearly setting in. Hurricanes coach Jason Holland going as far to suggest his men got "bored" with dominating.

Just when you thought the Chiefs' season could not get any worse, McMillan ignited a reaction with his halftime team talk.

Chase Tiatia's injection for Bay of Plenty playmaker Kaleb Trask, which pushed McKenzie into first-five, sparked the Chiefs' revival.

Tiatia stuck first, but McKenzie then produced the try of the night with a brilliant jinking run that finished with Brad Weber scoring under the sticks.

Fourteen unanswered points, and the Chiefs were suddenly within touching distance.

Despite their first-half struggles the Chiefs had the better of many areas – controlling possession and territory - but their inability to convert pressure into points proved costly.

McKenzie slotting into 10 certainly made them a more threatening prospect.

In a pivotal decision, Chiefs captain Sam Cane turned down a shot at goal and he was rewarded when lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi crashed over from the rolling maul – McKenzie's conversion pushing the Chiefs in front for the first time. And they did not look back.

Dynamic Auckland wing Salesi Rayasi, in his maiden start of the season, confirmed his prodigious talent with a brace and All Blacks second five-eighth Ngani Laumape also impressed in the first spell for the Hurricanes, who initially bossed the breakdown and made life difficult for Chiefs halfback Weber.

With ball in hand, the Hurricanes were lethal in the first spell. Barrett sparked the locals by pushing off All Blacks midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown and setting up Luke Campbell for the opening try.

The Chiefs responded immediately with powerful hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho hitting a superb angled line off a McKenzie pass from first receiver. Taukei'aho's offload found Trask to level the ledger.

From there, though, the Hurricanes found their rhythm as Laumape came to the fore with two telling touches. First Laumape broke into space from a second man play - his long ball sending prominent Hurricanes hooker Ricky Riccitelli in at the corner.

A Trask error from a botched high ball opened the door for Rayasi to bag the first of his brace following a Laumape cross-field kick.

Rayasi's second, the Hurricanes' fourth try, came after the locals turned down another shot at goal. This time lock James Blackwell provided the subtle touch with his backdoor pass opening space for Rayasi to slide through.

Those slick attacking plays were nowhere to be seen when the Hurricanes emerged from the sheds, though.

Only they will know why, and it's now their turn to wonder where their next win will come from.

Chiefs 35 (Kaleb Trask, Chase Tiatia, Brad Weber, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Luke Jacobson tries; Damian McKenzie 5 cons), Hurricanes 29 (Salesi Rayasi 2, Luke Campbell, Ricky Riccitelli tries; Jordie Barrett 3 cons, pen). HT: 7-26

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