The Waikato Chiefs ran away with a 43-27 win over the Northern Bulls in a Super 14 rugby match that came alight with a flurry of second-half tries in New Zealand on Saturday.
The match produced nine tries, six by the Chiefs, who came from an early 0-10 deficit to hold a narrow 12-10 lead at half-time before taking firm control after the turn.
Their third win from six matches also produced Chiefs’ first bonus point of the season and lifted them from 10th to eighth on the ladder.
But the Bulls, the reigning Super 14 champions, again failed to live up to expectations as they squandered their early lead.
All Blacks Brendon Leonard and Sione Lauaki were dominant figures in the Chiefs line-up.
Lauaki, in tandem with Liam Messam, ensured turnovers heavily favoured the Chiefs, while Leonard was pivotal in setting up scoring moves and lifting the spirit in a side that squandered possession throughout the first half.
The Chiefs enjoyed 70% of possession and territory but suffered from a lack of enterprise in the first period, when the Bulls looked the most dangerous despite limited opportunities.
They scored first after Lauaki spilled a Derick Hougaard clearing kick and Pedrie Wannenburg took play up to the 22m line. When the ball was cleared to Wynand Olivier, the midfield back cut through the Chiefs’ defensive line to score wide out.
Hougaard added the extra two points and a penalty soon after to have the Bulls ahead 10-0 after 20 minutes.
The Chiefs’ scoring started with a piece of individual brilliance from Lauaki to make up for his earlier error. The big back-rower started a counter-attack from halfway and gathered in his own chip kick to send Leonard over for the first of two tries by the halfback.
On the stroke of half-time, Callum Bruce handled twice in one move to score by the posts, with Stephen Donald’s conversion putting the Chiefs narrowly ahead 12-10 at the turn.
When play resumed, the floodgates opened.
Donald kicked a penalty and converted Leonard’s second try for the Chiefs to pull ahead 22-10.
Hougaard reduced the gap with a dropped goal before the Chiefs came back with tries by Dwayne Sweeney and Lelia Masaga, both converted by Donald to open up a 36-13 lead.
The Bulls fought their way back into the reckoning, closing the gap to 27-36 with tries in quick succession to Deon Stegmann and Akona Ndungane, before the Chiefs had the final say with a late try to Messam.
Chiefs flyhalf Donald scored 13 points from five conversions and a penalty while his opposite number Hougaard posted 12 points from three conversions, a penalty and a dropped goal. — Sapa-AFP