Rugby-Chiefs stun Hurricanes to reach Super Rugby final


  • Rugby
  • Saturday, 15 Jun 2024

(Reuters) - The Waikato Chiefs caught the Wellington Hurricanes cold with an early double blow and held on to win a Super Rugby Pacific semi-final thriller 30-19 on Saturday, setting up an all-New Zealand title-decider against the Auckland Blues.

Number eight Wallace Sititi was outstanding and flyhalf Damian McKenzie contributed 15 points with a perfect afternoon from the kicking tee as the Chiefs won their first Super Rugby playoff on the road at the fifth attempt.

They will have to repeat the feat to secure a third Super Rugby title next Saturday at Eden Park against the Blues, who outmuscled the ACT Brumbies 34-20 in the first semi-final on Friday.

"I think we had a really good plan over the week and we just came out here and we trusted it," said Chiefs skipper Luke Jacobson.

"(Wallace) took it to another level, he's a special kid and he's got a huge future."

The Hurricanes, who topped the regular season standings and were aiming for a second Super Rugby title, were picked off too easily by the Chiefs at the breakdown and never really hit their full stride in attack.

The Chiefs raced out of the blocks and were two tries to the good after six minutes.

Flanker Samipeni Finau grabbed the first in the third minute after a rampaging run down the right flank and basketball-style offload from winger Emoni Narawa.

A blocked kick led to the second with 21-year-old Sititi storming through the midfield before finding Jacobson and the Chiefs skipper passing the ball on for scrumhalf Cortez Ratima to touch down.

McKenzie converted both tries and added a penalty in the 15th minute to take the lead out to 17-0, silencing the crowd and forcing the Hurricanes to reassess their conservative gameplan.

Flanker Peter Lakai finally got the home side on the board with a try five minutes later but the Hurricanes were still struggling to get passes to stick and their much vaunted backline firing.

Ratima thought he had scored a second try after 25 minutes but it was called back for a foul shot on Hurricanes scrumhalf TJ Perenara, which resulted in Finau spending 10 minutes in the sin bin.

McKenzie got the next points on the board with another penalty six minutes into the second half to extend the lead to 20-7, but the Chiefs were soon reduced to 14 men again when Jacobson was yellow-carded for a late hit on Jordie Barrett.

The Hurricanes were able to take advantage of the extra man this time as Brett Cameron grabbed their second try off a sweeping move and converted his own score to cut the deficit to 20-14 after 55 minutes.

Just when it looked like the momentum was finally with the home side, Sititi popped up with an interception and raced off up the field.

He was finally dragged down just short of the line but the Chiefs recycled the ball and winger Daniel Rona touched down for a converted try.

McKenzie kicked a third penalty in the 66th minute to take the lead out to 16 points and although the Hurricanes responded with a 71st-minute try from Billy Proctor, it was too little, too late.

"We're just really gutted because we were extremely proud of what we've achieved this season," Hurricanes captain Brad Shields said.

"We just couldn't get there tonight, which is tough to take."

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Sam Holmes)

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