New Zealand’s Chiefs claimed their maiden Super Rugby title on Saturday with a 37-6 win over South Africa’s Sharks in a lopsided final at Hamilton.
In damp conditions at Waikato Stadium the hosts produced another brutal display to become the sixth team – and third from New Zealand – to taste final success in the competition’s 17-year history.
Victory comes in the wake of the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic’s maiden trans-Tasman netball triumph and the golden week for New Zealand’s Olympic rowers – all of whom live and train in the region.Four unanswered tries were built on the back of accuracy and aggression from the hosts’ pack and clever tactics as showers sprinkled the match.
Rather than employ their usual ball-in-hand methods, the Chiefs used a variety of short kicks which the visitors struggled to handle.
Play opened up over the closing stages but the early pragmatic approach made for a torrid final that was far from visually spectacular.
However, it was too much for an error-prone Sharks outfit clearly battling the effects of a draining travel schedule that involved wins over Queensland in Brisbane and the Stormers in Cape Town in the playoffs.
Sharks five-eighth Frederic Michalak kicked a penalty in each half while Chiefs opposite Aaron Cruden landed three, along with conversions of tries to winger Tim Nanai-Williams, No.8 Kane Thompson, reserve winger Lelia Masaga and centre Sonny Bill Williams.
The hosts trailed 3-0 at the 20-minute mark but Nanai-Williams’ try, set up by some neat interplay between Cruden and Williams, seemed to knock the stuffing out of their opponents.
A 13-3 halftime lead was extended by seven when Thompson barrelled over for a simple score off the back of a scrum.
Masaga pounced on a dropped ball and flashed 4m to seal the match 20 minutes from time.
The final word went to Williams, playing his last game for the Chiefs, who jumped into the arms of jubilant supporters after crossing for the final try.
The Chiefs were in the final for the second time in 17 years.
In 2009 they were beaten 61-17 by the Bulls for the heaviest finals defeat in Super rugby history.
The previous Super championship winners were the Crusaders (seven titles), Northern Bulls (three), Auckland Blues (three), ACT Brumbies (two), and Queensland Reds (one).
Chiefs 37 (Tim Nanai-Williams, Kane Thompson, Lelia Masaga, Sonny Bill Williams tries; Aaron Cruden 4 conversions, 3 penalty goals)
Sharks 6 (Frederic Michalak 2 penalty goals).