Cruden leads Chiefs to win against Lions
Aaron Cruden again underlined his credentials as the long-term successor to Daniel Carter in the All Blacks with a superb all round performance in guiding the Waikato Chiefs to a 34-21 victory over the Lions in their Super Rugby clash on Saturday.
Cruden scored a try, set up another for winger Lelia Masaga and was perfect with his goal kicking as he slotted four conversions and two penalties for the table-topping Chiefs, who moved to 44 points with the bonus-point win.
“We are pretty pleased we scored a few tries, but there were also a few lapses too and we let them run too much,” said Chiefs captain Craig Clarke, who scored his first Super Rugby try.
Scrumhalf Brendon Leonard grabbed the bonus-point try following a speculative kick and chase.
The Chiefs success this season has been built on smothering defence and a much improved forward performance that has given flyhalf Cruden the time to dictate play, which he did with composed efficiency against the Lions in Pukekohe.
Coach Dave Rennie chose to rest several of the forwards that had helped the Chiefs to eight successive wins but it made little difference as the Hamilton-based side smashed into tackles and the breakdown on the way to equalling their most wins in a Super Rugby season.
They also won nine games in 2009, when they finished runners-up to the Bulls, though with six matches remaining are almost certain to add to that total.
The Lions used their massive pack to score all three of their tries, with replacement lock Cobus Grobelaar bashing over twice from rolling mauls following attacking lineouts, while captain Joshua Strauss smashed over from in close.
Elton Jantjies converted all three tries, though the Lions played most of the game hemmed inside their own half and made too many errors in their execution.
“When we stuck to our game plan it worked for us but we gave them a lot of ball and they’re a side that punishes you,” said Grobelaar. “We were playing a lot of catch-up rugby but the guys showed good character.
“We just need to work on our basics and there are things to improve.”—Reuters.