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Chiefs battle their way past the Highlanders

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Article Published: Saturday 7 May 2011|

The Chiefs secured their fourth victory of the season when they beat the Highlanders 20-7 in Hamilton.

The win keeps the Chiefs faint hopes of reaching the play offs and is a knock for the Highlanders play off hopes.

The Highlanders had an off day with handling and injuries during the match to key players like Adam Thomson did not help their cause.

The match was a typical New Zealand local derby match dominated by physical defence from both teams.

The teams were close on the scoreboard throughout the match and the Chiefs trailed 6-7 at half time.

The Highlanders discipline could have cost them more dearly but Chiefs pivot Stephen Donald had another off night with the boot.

While the Chiefs took the lead straight after the break with Brendon Leonard's try they only managed to put some breathing space in the final minutes of the match when Liam Messam scored the Chiefs second try.

Former All Blacks flyhalf Stephen Donald became the seventh player to surpass 800 points in Super rugby, landing two penalties and a conversion in the match.

Donald kicked two first-half penalties for the Chiefs, who trailed 7-6 at halftime, and added the conversion of Brendon Leonard's try in the second half.

But Donald did little to advance his chances of an All Blacks recall in the vacant role as World Cup understudy to Daniel Carter, managing only three goals from five attempts before leaving the field with injury 15 minutes from fulltime.

The Chiefs and Highlanders collectively managed only five of nine shots at goal, continuing the poor goalkicking performances which have been a feature of the play of New Zealand sides this season.

Overall, New Zealand's five teams have managed a kicking success rate of a little better than 60 percent.

The Highlanders, previously fifth-placed with seven wins from 10 games, suffered their second straight loss to a New Zealand opponent after last week's 15-10 loss to the Blues.

They were hard hit by injuries on Saturday, almost clearing their bench before halftime.

Among the injured were flanker Adam Thomson - who joins a long list of currently injured All Blacks - and first-half tryscorer Jason Rutledge.

Rutledge gave the Highlanders a 7-0 lead with his try after nine minutes, created by a brilliant side-step and explosive attacking run by flyhalf Lima Sopoaga.

When Sopoaga split open the Chiefs defence, hooker Rutledge supported him wide out and took the flyhalf's floating pass to score.

The Highlanders remained dominant for the first 30 minutes, forcing repeated turnovers with the strong counter-rucking which has been their forte this season.

But handling errors prevented them from capitalizing on attacking opportunities and the Chiefs were able to fight their way back into the match.

The Chiefs first regained parity at the breakdown with a physical effort in the final minutes of the first half, then dominated both territory and possession through the second as the Highlanders pattern frayed with repeated personnel changes.

The Chiefs were also guilty of squandering attacking chances through handling errors and Donald was one of the principal offenders.

After missing a penalty which would have given the Chiefs the comfort of a nine-point lead after 56 minutes, he dropped a difficult pass with the line open only minutes later.

He also threw a number of poor passes which took the edge off attacking movements.

All Blacks winger Sitiveni Sivivatu returned from injury to strengthen the Chiefs backline on Saturday and looked full of running but he lacked opportunities.

The Highlanders now have to restore their winning momentum in a third derby match next weekend against the Hurricanes.

Final Score Chiefs 20 Highlanders 7


Tries - B Leonard, L Messam
Pen - S Donald 2
Con - S Donald, D Sweeney
Drop -
Cards -

Tries - J Rutledge
Pen -
Con - R Robinson
Drop -
Cards -

Match Officials
Referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
Television match official: Nick Briant (New Zealand)



Chiefs:1. Toby Smith,2. Hika Elliot,3. Ben Afeaki,4. Craig Clarke,5. Romana Graham,6. Liam Messam,7. Scott Waldrom,8. Fritz Lee,9. Brendon Leonard,10. Stephen Donald,11. Sitiveni Sivivatu,12. Dwayne Sweeney,13. Richard Kahui,14. Lelia Masaga,15. Mils Muliaina (Captain)

Reserves:16. Aled de Malmanche,17. Sona Taumalolo,18. Isaac Ross,19. Tanerau Latimer,20. Tawera Kerr-Barlow,21. Tim Nanai-Williams,22. Jackson Willison

Highlanders :Robbie Robinson, Kade Poki, Kendrick Lynn, Ben Smith, Siale Piutau, Lima Sopoaga, Jimmy Cowan, Nasi Manu, Alando Soakai, Adam Thomson, Josh Bekhuis, Jarrad Hoeata, Chris King, Jason Rutledge, Jamie Mackintosh (captain).

Reserves: Brayden Mitchell, Bronson Murray, Tom Donnelly, Nick Crosswell, Aaron Smith, Matt Saunders, James Paterson.

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