The Chiefs beat the Jaguares 27-30 after a thrilling finish at Estadio Jose Amalfitani, Buenos Aires.
Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi scored in the final minute to give the Chiefs a hard-fought second win of the season, and second win on the road after beating the Bulls in South Africa, last weekend.
It was a classic Super Rugby clash between two inconsistent but entertaining teams, who shared six tries in a match that heated up after the break.
Damian McKenzie starred for the Chiefs, kicking six from six and scoring the New Zealand outfit’s first try for a match-haul of 20 points.
A stop-start opening 40 minutes saw the Waikato men take a commanding lead only for the Argentinians to mount a storming comeback in the middle of the second half.
The Chiefs scored twice through Damian McKenzie and Tumua Manu, after a smart dink – and lucky bounce – from Marty McKenzie to go up by 11.
Joaquin Diaz Bonilla kicked two penalties either side of Damian McKenzie’s ninth-minute equaliser before the visitors ramped up the intensity, pulling away from the Argentinians before the interval.
The Jaguares clawed back the 14-point deficit with tries from Joaquin Tuculet and Pablo Matera to level the scores at 20-all at the end of the third quarter.
McKenzie’s late strike put the New Zealanders back in front before the thrilling climax.
The Jaguares went ahead when Matias Orlando scored in the 73rd-minute after Damian McKenzie edged the Chiefs in front with his third penalty of the evening, three minutes earlier.
The Kiwis had scored nine tries off the back of scrums this season, more than any other team in the competition, and they made it 10 at the death when Tahuriorangi crossed for the winner.
Orlando scored soon after, but there was a further twist. Gonzalo Quesada’s side messed up the restart, giving the Chiefs one last opportunity, which they duly took.
Chiefs start slow but find their rhythm
Colin Cooper’s men were riding high after their first win of the season in South Africa. But his side started slowly conceding two penalties as they fell behind.
The Kiwis did consolidate, scoring their first try after a sustained period of possession. The tourists went through 15 phases.
Nathan Harris and Michael Allardice carried twice while Luke Jacobson carried three times as they laid siege to the opposition’s line, eventually winning a penalty.
Chiefs’ skipper Allardice opted for a scrum, sensing the momentum was with his team, and it paid off.
Tyler Ardron went close from the back of the scrum. The ball was recycled after the Jaguares were caught offside.
Brad Weber, after two cracks at the line from his forwards, sent a pass to Damian McKenzie, who waltzed through untouched for the game’s first try.
Tuculet was penalised for a high tackle on Marty McKenzie, which set up the second try after an attacking lineout.
Weber, knowing he had a penalty-advantage from the maul, supplied his halfback partner, who kicked a little chip-kick over the Jaguares’ rush-defence.
The ball bounced off the right-hand post and fell into the path of Manu. The outside centre collected the pill and dived over from close range.
It was a dire situation for the hosts, who were the architects of their downfall.
Marcos Kremer was sent to the naughty step after a high tackle. Referee Angus Gardner had had enough. After talking to Guido Petti – playing in his 50th Super Rugby match – about the multiple infringements, the ref went to his pocket.
Jaguares mount comeback
Whatever Quesada said to his team, it worked because they came out with intensity and started to string together some phases as they looked to get back into the tie.
McKenzie continued his hot-streak, extending his side’s lead to two converted tries with his second penalty in the 43rd-minute.
But the home team fought back with two tries in 10 minutes to draw level.
Diaz Bonilla’s magical kick-pass over, Damian McKenzie’s head, was gathered by Tuculet for the Jaguares’ first five-pointer.
It was some kick by the flyhalf, who weighted his kick to perfection as it floated over the fullback’s head and into the arms of Tuculet.
The Pumas’ fullback showed great awareness to dot down as he landed because of the small in-goal area.
Diaz Bonilla slotted the tough conversion to make it a seven-point game. Petti, who was having a monster game in both the tight and the loose, powered towards the line.
He was stopped, but the Argentines recycled the ball quickly. Tomas Cubelli dug the ball out of the ruck and played Matera in for the score.
Another successful conversion from the metronomic Diaz Bonilla levelled the scores.
The Jaguares thought they had scored again, but the TMO Santiago Borsani could not find any conclusive evidence to award the try.
Mitchell Brown did well to get his arms underneath to hold the ball up.
Damian McKenzie, on 70 minutes, curled in another penalty to put his side in front. Then came some more magic. This time from replacement first-five Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias.
Kremer won a turnover inside the halfway line, and the Jaguares counter-attacked. Gonzalez Iglesias, taking a page out of Diaz Bonilla’s book, knew he had a penalty-advantage and decided to lob a floated kick for Moroni to challenge.
The 28-year-old winger beat Solomon Alaimalo (who had a quiet game), slapped the ball back to Orlando, who collected the bouncing ball then raced away through the Chiefs to score.
Gonzalez Iglesias converted to give the South Americans a four-point lead with less than six minutes to play.
Once again, however, the Jaguares shot themselves in the foot. A botched restart led to the Chiefs getting a five-metre scrum as the clock ticked down.
Taleni Seu, off the back of the set-piece, broke blind and sucked in Ramiro Moyano. The No 8 freed up his arms and got the ball away to his scrumhalf to score the go-ahead try.
Damian McKenzie added the inconsequential sideline conversion. It gave his team back-to-back wins away from the Land of the Long White Cloud.
Final Score: Jaguares 27 (6) Chiefs 30 (17)
Tries – Tuculet, Matera, Orlando
Pen – Diaz Bonilla (2)
Con – Diaz Bonilla (2), Gonzalez Iglesias
Cards – Kremer (Yellow, 37′)
Tries – D. McKenzie, Manu, Tahuriorangi
Pen – D. McKenzie (3)
Con – D. McKenzie (3)
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Ref 1: Pablo Deluca
Assistant Ref 2: Damian Schneider
TMO: Santiago Borsani
15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Tomas Lezana, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti Pagadizaval, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Mayco Vivas.
Replacements: 16 Gaspar Baldunciel, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Pablo Matera, 20 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Matias Orlando.
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Michael Allardice (captain), 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Tevita Mafileo, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Jesse Parete, 20 Taleni Seu, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Alex Nankivell, 23 Etene Nanai-Seturo.