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Committed Chiefs tame Highlanders

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Friday, February 24, 2017    allblacks.com    Getty Images

The Chiefs needed to snap a six-match losing streak against the Highlanders and did it in style by holding the Highlanders try-less and crossing for three of their own to secure a crucial bonus point victory.

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While the Chiefs defence was unfaltering throughout the full 80 minutes, their finishing was just as impressive in nailing their three try-scoring opportunities.

The Highlanders were their own worst enemies in the first half. Although they dominated territory and possession, they lacked patience and pushed ambitious passes when ball retention would have been the better option.

The desperation to move the ball proved costly in the opening 20 minutes as Chiefs wing James Lowe snatched two intercept tries. The first one came after pushed passes from both Malakai Fekitoa and Aaron Smith while the second was a pure burgle from the hands of Waisake Naholo.

The Highlanders stayed in touch throughout the encounter through Lima Sopoaga’s boot but they were constantly thwarted by the Chiefs quick line speed on defence.

On debut for the Highlanders, Tevita Li was a constant threat on attack but the Chiefs scrambling defence always seemed to be on call. In the forwards, Liam Squire was a tower of strength but missed his partner in crime Elliot Dixon in the tight exchanges. 



The Chiefs scored their third try early in the second half through a classy set move from the lineout. Halfback Tawera Kerr Barlow got the ball from the top of the lineout and shifted straight back to hooker Hika Elliot who had a clear run to the line.

The 21-9 lead was simply too much for the Highlanders to overcome as the Chiefs defence and work rate around the park remained high.

There was big concern around Highlanders Captain and fullback Ben Smith who suffered a big head knock late in the first half. Contesting a Lima Sopoaga bomb, Smith collided with Damian McKenzie in mid-air and failed a concussion test soon after.

Aaron Cruden said: “We knew it was going to be tough start to the season. The Highlanders are extremely strong either home or away so it was going to be a big test for us. I thought our new guys that debuted today really stood up and it was a polished team performance.”

SCORERS:
Highlanders 15 (Lima Sopoaga 4 pen) Chiefs 24 (James Lowe 2, Hika Elliot, tries, Aaron Cruden 3 con, pen)
HT: 9-14