Chiefs continue unbeaten start to title defence
March 2, 2014
Highlanders' Ben Smith is tackled from behind by Charlie Ngatai © Getty Images
Reigning champions the Chiefs continued their winning start to the season as they came from behind to beat the Highlanders 21-19.
The Chiefs needed a late try to snatch the win after trailing on the scoreboard for over an hour, following a gritty performance from the Highlanders saw them race into a 16-7 half-time lead. The Chiefs had scored first, with Tim Nanai-Williams going over in the corner, but were second best for the rest of the opening half as the Highlanders came back into the game.
The visitors were rewarded for their dominance on the half-hour mark as John Hardie went over, and the boot of Lima Sopoaga stretched their lead further before the break. But they would score just one penalty in the second period as the Chiefs came back into the game, first through a Liam Messam score and then the game-tying try from centre Charlie Ngatai.
As he has done before in New Zealand colours, Aaron Cruden stepped up to nail the conversion from out wide with 11 minutes remaining - which proved to be enough to keep the Chiefs' unbeaten start to their title defence alive.
Israel Folau scored two tries as the Waratahs thrashed the Reds 32-5 to continue their perfect start to the new season. The Waratahs claimed their second bonus-point win in as many games as they ran in four tries past their Australian rivals, with Folau taking his personal tally to the season up to five from two games. The Australia full-back scored twice in the first 33 minutes before Peter Betham added another.
Lachie Turner then pulled a try back on the stroke of half-time as the Reds made the most of Folau being sent to the sin-bin after an intentional knock into touch. But it would be their only score of the match as the Waratahs came roaring back after the break, with Kurtley Beale wrapping up the bonus point six minutes after the restart. Bernard Foley added 12 points with boot as Waratahs to send provisionally top of the standings.
Israel Folau continued his impressive start to the season © Getty Images
The Bulls overcame the Lions 25-17 despite being outscored two tries to one in Pretoria.
Twenty points from the boot of Jacques-Louis Potgieter, and a first-half try from Jan Serfontein, was enough for the home side after controlling the encounter from start to finish. The Lions had opened the scoring on 12 minutes through Stefan Watermeyer but by the time they added their second, through Willie Wepner three minutes from time, the match was far out of reach.
Three first-half tries proved to be enough for the Brumbies as they eased past Western Force 27-14 in Perth.
Scott Fardy, Jesse Mogg and Robbie Coleman all crossed in the opening 22 minutes to give the visitors a perfect start. Even a yellow card for Mogg was not enough to give the Force some momentum, as the Brumbies took a commanding 24-0 lead in at half-time after some accurate goal-kicking from scrum-half Nic White.
The home side only found their feet in the closing stages when the match was lost, with Jayden Hayward and Ben McCalman going over in the final five minutes for what proved to be little more than consolation tries.
The Blues managed to pin back a 14-point deficit to beat the Crusaders 35-24 at Eden Park on Friday evening.
The Crusaders, who have now lost their opening two matches of the 2014 campaign, stormed into a 17-3 lead thanks to efforts from Corey Flynn and Colin Slade but the Blues mounted a comeback when Frank Halai went over after 33 minutes. A try from Tevita Li followed and the home side were back to within two points by half-time.
And it was the Blues who came out of the blocks quickest in the second-half with George Moala and Jackson Willison scoring as they turned the game on its head to go 15 points ahead. Ryan Crotty scored late on for the Crusaders but the impressive boot of debutant Simon Hickey kept the Blues in front as he finished the game with 15 points.
Later on Friday, the Melbourne Rebels ran in five tries to dispatch the Cheetahs 35-14 at AAMI Park. Lachlan Mitchell, Jason Woodward, Luke Burgess, Bryce Hegarty and Scott Higginbotham all scored for the Rebels with Hegarty slotting two conversions and Angus Roberts adding a further five points. The Cheetahs were never really in the game but mustered two tries of their own thanks to efforts from Jean Cook and Rayno Barnes.
Blues' Frank Halai takes a hit from the Crusaders defender © Getty Images
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