Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa keeps on giving after the Chiefs captain of the moment fullback Damian McKenzie did it again to give his side an injury-time 26-24 win over a luckless Hurricanes side at FMG Stadium in Hamilton on Friday night.
Moments after kicked a downfield kick beyond the deadball line the dominant Chiefs scrum secured a penalty 45m out and McKenzie stepped up to land the winner to give his side five consecutive wins.
The Chiefs have every chance of claiming a finals berth, something they will look to confirm in the final round against the Blues next weekend.
The Hurricanes, level 10-10 at halftime, came back into the game when claiming the lead with 13 minutes left. But the Chiefs refused to lie down and their scrum claimed the impetus that set up the win.
The Hurricanes, who will finish last in the competition made an electric start and claimed an early lead.
First five-eighths Bryn Gatland missed touch with a clearing kick and Hurricanes fullback Jordie Barrett brought the ball back up. From the ruck the ball moved to centre field where tighthead prop Tyrell Lomax slipped the perfect short ball to lock James Blackwell and he raced 22m to score 58 seconds into the game.
Gatland’s restart hit the sideline and the Hurricanes rumbled back upfield and won several penalty options but they failed to ram home their scoreboard advantage. But it was to be his last error as he provided the required assurance to complement the work of his pack.
While a 14th minute penalty goal to McKenzie pulled the lead back, it took until the 30th minute before the Chiefs could claim the lead. It came after some strong runs by loose forwards Lachlan Boshier and Pita Gus Sowakula, and wings Etene Nanai-Seturo and Jonah Lowe while in another burst centre Anton Lienert-Brown dropped the ball over the line.
However, the Chiefs scrum became a powerful tool in their recovery and it was from a five-metre scrum that Sowakula was able to take advantage from the shove to score.
They couldn’t score again and when lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi was penalised on the halftime break, Barrett landed a 55m penalty goal to level the scores.
Within eight minutes of the restart, the Chiefs had put 10 points on the Hurricanes from another McKenzie penalty goal. But the crucial blow came after Gatland latched onto an overthrown lineout, kicked the ball ahead and regathered and then kicked again.
Barrett couldn’t control the ball and prop Xavier Numia picked up the ball in an offside position. From the scrum, Gatland capped the play by stepping into a gap and racing eight metres for the try.
Relishing the ball in hand, Hurricanes No8 Devan Flanders charged up the midfield in a fine break. The pack was behind him and in the resulting phase play two advantages were called and when hooker Dane Coles took the ball to the line, the ball emerged and it was replacement wing Billy Proctor who scored in the 52 minute.
McKenzie extended the lead with another penalty goal, but in the 67th minute replacement hooker Asafo Aumua stamped himself on the game. It was after three lineouts five metres out from the line that the maul finally gave Aumua the chance to get momentum up and when he did there was no stopping him in a bullocking run.
It set in train yet another thrilling finish with the Chiefs sneaking home in the 83rd minute.
Chiefs 26 (Pita Gus Sowakula, Bryn Gatland tries; Damian McKenzie 2 con, 4 pen)
Hurricanes 24 (James Blackwell, Billy Proctor, Asafo Aumua tries; Jordie Barrett 3 con, pen).