Chiefs grind out tough win over Sharks

The Chiefs, outscored three tries to two, clung on to edge out the Sharks 24-22 in New Plymouth on Friday night to stay top of the Super Rugby table.

The South African tourists produced a strong defensive effort to keep their line intact in the second half before closing to within two points with eight minutes to go.

But the Chiefs were able to close out the match and secure their seventh win in a row, twice turning down easy penalty attempts to ensure they hung on to the ball.

The Sharks had beaten the defending champion Highlanders the previous week, but couldn’t quite get the result that would have lifted them in the wildcard spot in the South African group.

The Chiefs made a flying start at Yarrow Stadium, centre Seta Tamanivalu bursting through some weak defence to dot down after just 51 seconds.

They grabbed their second try in the 24th minute, with five-eighth Aaron Cruden’s long floated pass finding No.8 Michael Leitch out wide.

But the Sharks’ tactic of engaging the Chiefs into a kicking duel paid off as they wore the home side down.

The South Africans’ dominant lineout maul and strong scrum also came to the fore.

Down 15-3, they got their opening try when hooker Kyle Cooper finished off a clinical lineout drive.

They tied the score 15-15 when another penalty was kicked to the corner and April showed some slick footwork to jink past five defenders to dot down, although he couldn’t add the go-ahead conversion.

The Chiefs dominated possession and territory in the second spell, but weren’t able crack the Sharks’ defence, although three penalties from Cruden gave them the upper hand.

Down 24-15, the Sharks put another penalty into the corner and their lineout drive, which had been a huge weapon, again game up with the goods.

This time, it was substitute hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle who touched down and five-eighth Garth April added the extras to set up a tense finish.

Cruden, who resumed the kicking duties from fullback Damien McKenzie, finished with 14 points after landing five of seven shots at goal.

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