Highlanders v.s Chiefs match review
February 22, 2013
A red hot Chiefs team travelled to Otago to take on the new look Highlanders in a match that we touted as being too close to call. The next 80 minutes proved to be the best rugby we’ve witnessed thus far this season.
First 20: 8.25/10
The game started off with both sides displaying silky skills as they effortlessly passed and processed the ball through several phases. Both defensive lines were solid and resolute in the opening passages setting us up for a cracker of a match. The Chiefs had a slight ascendency in the scrums and at the breakdown which they used to their advantage earning a penalty for holding on which they converted to open the scoring.
The Highlanders immediately bounced back through minor errors by the Chiefs to get into their 22. After turning down a shot at goal the Highlanders attacked through several phases before scoring what may be called an opportunistic try simply due to the phenomenal quality of finish in tight space by Ben Smith.
The Chiefs were not rattled at all as they immediately bounced back scoring a try from their own half through a great line-break by Tim Nanai-Williams who clean stepped Ben Smith to score an impressive solo try.
Second 20: 8.25/10
This stanza opened with an early penalty by Gareth Anscombe for further infringements by the Highlanders under pressure at the breakdown. The tempo began to increase and a period of phenomenal offloads and running off the ball by both sides marked the next 5 minutes of play. The Chiefs then worked themselves into the Highlanders half to earn another shot at goal from yet another breakdown infringement through Gareth Anscombe’s red hot boot.
Both sides continued to move the ball through several phases in end to end rugby with sound defence and excellent tackling from both teams holding out. It must be noted (and praised from a spectators’ point of view) that very little tactical kicking was employed by either team up to this point in this high paced match. The Highlanders then earned themselves a rare shot a goal from the halfway line through a poor tactical kick by the Chiefs but unfortunately it went wide. Sam Cane soon went off from a knock to the head due to falling awkwardly in a heavy tackle. Tanerau Latimer came on as his replacement. Up until this stage in the match the ability to recycle and challenge for the ball at the breakdown were the two main points of difference between the Highlanders and leaders Chiefs.
Minutes before half-time Highlanders captain Hosea Gear stepped his way through four Chiefs defenders to score from 10 metres out with the kick being knocked over for the first half to close 14 – 16 in the Chief’s favour.
Third 20: 8/10
The Highlanders earned themselves an early penalty through several phases of relentless attack. Lima Sopoaga slotted it over to give the Highlanders an early second half lead, 17 – 16.
The Chiefs came back at a slightly slower pace than the first half but through several phases, great passing and much patience managed to score in the corner through winger Patrick Osborne to silence the Otago crowd.
Immediately from the kick-off in a ding-dong response the Highlanders scored from their own 40 meter line, help in part due to a missed tackle by Tim Nanai-Williams. The kick was converted for the Highlanders to lead again, now by 24 points to 21. At this point the Chiefs must have felt aggrieved. Were it not for two missed tackles they would have had an unassailable lead and the match in the bag.
Momentum then shifted for the first time in the match and the Highlanders began to dominate earning themselves a penalty to go ahead 27 to 21.
Fourth 20: 9/10
This final stanza opened with an early try by the Chiefs as the Highlanders simply could not contain the number of attacking phases which they managed to put together. The end to end fashion of the match continued in a vastly increased pace with the Chiefs kicking over 2 more penalties. The Highlanders then almost scored but, in toe-curling agony, a pass near the try-line that didn’t go to hand was severely punished as Tim Nanai-Williams raced down the wing to score from his own 22! Following the conversion the Chiefs led by 35 – 27. It must be said that the Chiefs simply found an extra gear in this final stanza and it was through very little fault on the part of the Highlanders, that after another 2 Chiefs penalties, they were now 14 points behind.
The Highlanders were camped in the Chiefs 22 for the majority of next 15 minutes, turning down a shot at goal, but just could not turn possession into points with the desperate Chiefs’ defence holding on by a thread on several occasions. Final score 27 – 41.
In the end a frenetic match which showcased the best that New Zealand rugby has to offer.