Super Rugby

McKenzie heroics breaks Hurricanes’ hearts

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The Chiefs edged the Hurricanes 26-24 thanks to a last-gasp Damian McKenzie penalty, after the hooter, in the penultimate round of Super Rugby Aotearoa at FMG Stadium, Hamilton.

McKenzie played hero once again, stepping up and kicking an 84th-minute penalty to win the Chiefs their fifth Super Rugby Aotearoa match in a row, the first time the Hamilton side has achieved this since 2018.

The Hurricanes led by one with the clock ticking down. However, it was déjà vu all over again, with witch-doctor McKenzie (black) magic as the Chiefs summoned the ghosts from games past.

The Chiefs gave the visitors multiple chances to close the game out, but the Hurricanes could not take their chance.

Instead, after the hooter sounded, the Chiefs won a crucial last-play penalty about 46 metres out. Up stepped the diminutive fullback, who just turned 26 years old, to do what he does best.

It was shades of the past few weeks, months, and years. Cool as ice, McKenzie made no mistake, breaking the Canes’ hearts with another walk-off kick.

Jason Holland’s side outscored their opponents three tries to two, but it was McKenzie’s boot that made the difference.

The fullback kicked four penalties and converted both his team’s tries for a match haul of 16 points.

The win sees the Waikato men stay in second place on the Super Rugby log with one round to play. The loss, however, keeps the Hurricanes rooted to the foot of the table.

Hurricanes start fast but cannot make their early dominance count

Jordie Barrett kicked a monster 55-metre penalty after the first half hooter to level the scores at 10 apiece.

The Hurricanes came out of the blocks with pace and intensity, scoring in the second minute after Tyrel Lomax put James Blackwell through a gap.

The big lock raced away, beating three defenders to score next to the posts. Barrett converted.

The visitor’s offloading game tore the home team to shreds, but Holland’s men did not capitalise. Twice they eschewed kicks at goal in the opening stages, and both times nothing came of their good position.

McKenzie kicked a penalty on the quarter-hour to get the Chiefs on the board.

The game turned into an arm-wrestle, but the Chiefs fought back. The hosts should have scored twice, though, but Pita Gus Sowakula and Anton Lienert-Brown both knocked on over the try line.

Super Rugby Aotearoa Round 9 Video Highlights: Chiefs vs Hurricanes, FMG Stadium, Hamilton

As the half went on, the home team’s pack began to cause problems, winning a couple of scrum penalties to set up attacks inside the opposition’s 22.

Sowakula’s ball-carrying and direct running caused the Canes all manner of problems; they could not stop the burly number eight.

He kick-started several attacks from broken play as well as the set-pieces and was a menace all game.

Alex Nankivell went close but was tackled into touch. The pressure, however, finally told when Sowakula broke of another powerful scrum, which had the Canes back-peddling towards their line.

The No 8 broke left, wriggled out of scrumhalf Luke Campbell’s ineffective tackle, and barged through Ngani Laumape to score.

McKenzie added the extras to put McMillan’s men in front.

But Barrett’s last-ditch penalty, after Naitoa Ah Kuoi’s needless infringement at the ruck, levelled the game.

The Cheifs pull away, but Canes fight back to take lead before last-play heartbreak

McKenzie cancelled out Barrett’s kick with an early second-half penalty of his own to make it 13-10 after 44 minutes.

The game opened up as both teams began to find some rhythm. Bryn Gatland’s electric individualism set up a try on the visitor’s line.

The first five would score from the resulting scrum. McKenzie’s conversion opened up a 10-point lead; however, it did not take long for the Hurricanes to hit back.

On 53 minutes, following a 13-phase attack inside the opposition’s 22, the Canes crossed. Billy Proctor finished the multiphase move, scoring next to the poles. Barrett cut the gap to three.

McKenzie missed a penalty but made amends a few minutes later as the hosts took a 23-17 lead on the hour.

The Hurricanes grew in stature as the game wore on; their pack taking control.

Three driving mauls in quick succession ended with hooker Asafo Aumua breaking from a static maul and barging through Boshier to dot down.

Barrett’s third conversion gave the Hurricanes a one-point lead with 10 minutes remaining.

The Chiefs had their chances, two very good ones from lineouts; however, the home side’s lineout imploded in the final period as they lost several throws in vital areas.

The game went down to the wire, though, and the Canes will rue not being able to close out the final stages.

A scrum penalty two minutes after the hooter allowed McKenzie to do what he does best: win the game.

Final Score: Chiefs 26 (10) Hurricanes 24 (10)

Scorers

Chiefs
Tries – Sowakula, Gatland
Pen – McKenzie (4)
Con – McKenzie (2)
Drop –
Cards –

Hurricanes
Tries – Blackwell, Proctor, Aumua
Pen – J. Barrett
Con – J. Barrett (3)
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 1: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Ref 2: Mike Fraser
TMO: Glenn Newmann

Teams

Chiefs  

15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Jonah Lowe, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Brad Weber (captain), 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 4 Tupou Vaa’i, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross

Replacements:
16 Nathan Harris, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Samipeni Finau, 20 Kaylum Boshier, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Rameka Poihipi, 23 Chase Tiatia

Hurricanes

15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Salesi Rayasi, 10 Ruben Love, 9 Luke Campbell, 8 Devan Flanders, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Xavier Numia

Replacements:
16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Pouri Rakere-Stones, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20 Vaea Fifita, 21 Brayden Lose, 22 Cam Roigard, 23 Billy Proctor

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