Rugby: Chiefs claim victory over Highlanders

Photo by Peter McIntosh
Photo by Peter McIntosh
The Chiefs may be minus Sonny Bill Williams, but their machine kept on rolling with a 41-27 win over the Highlanders in Dunedin tonight.

The defending champions were without many of their stars but did more than enough to finish ahead of a Highlanders team which was not quite accurate enough.

The Highlanders have been many pundits' pick to feature heavily this season but they had little ball in attack, especially in the first half, and made too many crucial errors.

The Chiefs were more clinical, especially in clearing the ball, and making the advantage line.

Tim Nanai-Williams was playing out of position at centre but he showed his talents, grabbing two tries and looking dangerous on attack.

No 8 Fritz Lee was powerful with ball in hand and prop Ben Afeaki got round the park.

Best for the home team was returning flanker John Hardie, lock Josh Bekhuis worked hard while Lima Sopoaga was busy at pivot.

Kade Poki scored a great try for the Highlanders early in the second half, brushing aside a weak Nanai-Williams tackle and then skipped away.

But the Chiefs came back and scored a try through winger Aseali Tikoirotuma.

The clincher came when the Highlanders dropped the ball after a long period of play and Nanai-Williams picked it up and proceeded to run 50m without anyone touching him.

The Highlanders scored the first try of the game and it went to hometown boy Ben Smith.

First five-eighth Sopoaga spied a hole in the defence and when it closed he passed in to Smith, who managed to worm his way over from 5m out.

But the Chiefs quickly replied.

Nanai-Williams found a huge gap in the Highlanders midfield off a scrum and proceeded to show a clean pair of heels over 50m to score.

Gareth Anscombe added the extras and another quick couple of penalties which had his side up 16-7 after half an hour.

The Highlanders hit back with two minutes left in the half, with Hosea Gear showing his finishing skills. He received the ball about 15m out and cut through three defenders to dot down.

Sopoaga added the conversion to keep his side handy at the break.

Chiefs 41 (Tim Nanai-Williams 2, Patrick Osborne, Aseali Tikorotuma tries, Gareth Anscombe 3 con, 5 pen) Highlanders 27 (Ben Smith, Hosea Gear, Kade Poki tries, Lima Sopoaga 3 con, 2 pen) Halftime: 16-14 Chiefs.

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