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ESPN SCRUM / ESPNscrum Columnist
Craig Dowd
Craig Dowd | Columnist Index
Craig Dowd played 60 Tests for New Zealand between 1993 and 2000, including in two World Cups, and he was part of the All Blacks team that won their first series in South Africa in 1996. He played for the Blues and Auckland in New Zealand domestic rugby, and for Wasps in England from 2001 to 2005. In 2009, he coached North Harbour in the ITM Cup. More recently has been a SKY Television comments man.
Craig Dowd
Chiefs lacking midfield penetration
Craig Dowd
April 8, 2014
The Chiefs' Tom Marshall hacks through against the Stormers, Chiefs v Stormers, Super Rugby, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand, March 14, 2014
The Chiefs are missing the strength of Robbie Fruean © Getty Images

The Chiefs got the hurry-up with their second draw in as many games in Southland.

I felt they were hard done by with the first 10 points awarded against them. When the Cheetahs contested the high kick that led to the first try the player should not have been allowed to contest because he was off-side. And before they scored under the posts in the subsequent play there was a forward pass involved.

Then there was the penalty awarded at halfway against Pauliasi Manu when he did everything right by out-scrummaging his opponent. And it cost the Chiefs another three points.

At half-time the game looked all over and that was mainly due to the Chiefs going within themselves and not playing the game, which allowed the Cheetahs to get away.

But then some individual brilliance from Tim Nanai-Williams was the saving grace. What a Houdini trick.

Looking at the Chiefs at the moment, they don't have the backline penetration they have enjoyed in the past. The forwards are doing enough, with Liam Messam and Brodie Retallick really leading from the front and playing well, but other traditional strengths are not being seen this year.

There is no penetration in midfield. They've got some good backs but they are distributors and all runners; there is no muscle. They started the season with Robbie Fruean and they've had Sonny Bill Williams and Lelia Masaga in the past. They were big and strong and could break the line, whereas if you look at the backline now, they don't have players like that.

The next couple of weeks, without Aaron Cruden, are going to be really tough for them. Opposition teams will be looking at them as vulnerable now.

They have come away from South Africa with six points without a win, which is not a bad effort. And if you had asked them before they left, they probably would have taken the six points out of South Africa.

Scrums continue to cause problems

Although the scrum was given a working over a couple of weeks ago in this column, events last weekend only confirmed the lottery nature involved with every scrum. I can only repeat my plea to let the packs get on with it, get the ball out and let's play on.

Even when I am coaching scrums and passing on knowledge to young front rowers I tell them that I can see 10 percent of what happens but you guys feel 90 percent of what is going on.

So I'm 90 percent in the dark after all the years of experience I had in the front row. And I'm no different to the referees who can also, after they have been schooled up on what to look for, only see 10 percent.

The referees do not have the technical knowledge to understand. They can look for a certain number of things but what they see is not always why the outcome happened.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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