The Chiefs Manawa survived the loss of two players to the sinbin in quick succession to record their second consecutive Super Rugby Aupiki win over the Hurricanes Poua.
After beating Matatū 17-15 in last week’s opener, the competition favourites were outstanding defensively against the newcomers and triumphed 29-8 at Hamilton’s FMG Stadium Waikato on Tuesday.
The Chiefs have riches of attacking quality, but their resolute, dogged defence earned them a victory that puts them in pole position to win the inaugural Aupiki title.
The Manawa made more than 100 tackles, but the scoreline was harsh on the Hurricanes.
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For a squad that was beset by a Covid-19 outbreak, the Poua were not lacking energy and merrily disrupted the Chiefs at the breakdown, denying the home side’s international backline chances to run with the ball in space.
The Poua were also handy with possession, but the Chiefs looked more threatening and the steady, effective control of fullback Hazel Tubic was key to their attack.
The Hurricanes also failed to punish the Chiefs, who were penalised heavily while making tackle after tackle in the second half, and their lack of cohesion was evident.
Still, they were good in the circumstances, with limited preparation because of Covid-19's impact, and were playing together under talismanic skipper Sarah Hirini for the first time after their opener last week against the Blues was cancelled.
One of the Manawa’s biggest advantages was their scrum, led by tighthead Tanya Kalounivale, and it consistently drove the Hurricanes into the turf.
That led to Portia Woodman reaching out to extend their lead before an attacking onslaught from the Hurricanes in the second half.
The Chiefs lost lock Victoria Edmonds to a yellow card after conceding five penalties in a row on their line.
The Manawa survived that scare and held on with 13 players for two minutes when No 8 Kennedy Simon was also sinbinned because of another Hurricanes' surge.
Earlier, the Chiefs opened the scoring with a swift attack from a set piece when runs from Woodman and Langi Veainu scattered Hurricanes defenders.
Renee Wickliffe walked over after the Manawa efficiently switched the play – her try capturing the match’s lively start.
The Chiefs were always dangerous in space and scored again through a smart break from hooker Luka Connor, who ruthlessly fended covering fullback Selica Winiata on her way to the line.
The Poua, too, were relishing an open game and replied when lock Joanah Ngan-Woo crashed over for a deserved try that was inspired by a powerful run from influential No 8 Kaipo Olsen-Baker.
THE BIG MOMENT
The Chiefs kept the Hurricanes out despite two yellow cards in the second half.
Edmonds’ was in the 50th minute, but the Hurricanes failed to convert that pressure into points.
The Chiefs defended for their lives and won a turnover penalty that deflated the Poua, who couldn't find a way through a wall of pink tacklers.
The Hurricanes kept coming, and although the Manawa were briefly down to 13 with Simon's sinbinning in the 57th minute, they didn’t score a point with their numerical advantage.
The only attacking chances the Chiefs had in the second half, they scored from. Late tries for Tubic and Mia Anderson finished the job in style.
MATCH RATING: 7/10
It was an entertaining, open spectacle in the first half, but it was scrappy after that and the Hurricanes will feel they could have claimed the spoils.
THE BIG PICTURE
The Chiefs play the Blues in Hamilton on Sunday and can win the title with a victory, albeit after a Covid-19 compromise that has squashed the format into three rounds over 10 days.
The Hurricanes face Matatū to finish the competition.
MVP:Tubic was excellent in the few attacking moments the Chiefs had.
Captain Les Elder led their defensive unit superbly at openside flanker and Kalounivale was a powerful force in the scrum and around the field.
Chiefs Manawa 29(Renee Wickliffe, Luka Connor, Portia Woodman, Hazel Tubic, Mia Anderson tries; Kelly Brazier 2 con)Hurricanes Poua 8(Joanah Ngan-Woo try; Carys Dallinger pen). HT: 12-8