Chiefs end losing streak with Highlanders win



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The Chiefs arrested their mid-season slide when they staved off a fired-up Highlanders to win a tense Super 14 clash 27-21 on Saturday.

The three tries to two victory brought an end to the Chiefs’ run of three consecutive losses, and restored their play-off hopes after they had won their opening three matches of the year.

It was the first-time pairing of inside backs Mike Delany and Stephen Donald, Dan Carter’s understudies for the All Blacks 10 jersey, that paved the way for the Chiefs’ seventh consecutive victory over the Highlanders.

Through the first half, it looked as if the Highlanders’ luck had changed as the Chiefs struggled in the scrums and lineouts, allowing the visitors to maintain a territorial advantage and lead 15-10 at halftime.

However, the ability of Delany to engineer a gap for Donald to penetrate kept bringing the Chiefs back on attack and within striking distance of the line.

Donald scored the Chiefs’ first try when he cut between Highlanders pivot Robbie Robinson and inside centre Jason Shoemark to run 40 metres unopposed to the line.

Delany set up the second try when he wrong-footed a wall of Highlanders defenders to spark the move that ended with a Donald cut-out pass to Sione Lauaki for the try.

Although the Highlanders left the paddock with a bonus point, they held the lead twice in the match and in the end were the architects of their own downfall.

In the closing minutes a knock on and a forward pass ruined two scoring opportunities which would have closed the gap to one point and with the accurate boot of Israel Dagg to take the conversion.

The Highlanders opened the scoring with a drop goal to Robinson and added tries to lock Hayden Triggs and winger Fetu’u Vainikolo in the first half while Dagg added a conversion.

Donald, who scored all of the Chiefs’ first half points with a converted try and penalty ignited the second half scoring when he set up Lauaki’s try soon after the resumption of play.

He then added a further penalty and converted Sona Taumalolo’s try while the Highlanders were restricted in the second half to two Dagg penalties.

With their confidence renewed, the Chiefs host competition leaders the Bulls next week, while the Highlanders return home to play the bottom-of-the table Western Force.

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