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Chiefs complete their grand slam

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Sportal.co.nz     28 Feb 2010     Getty Images

The Force started promisingly and looked dangerous in attack while able to hold the Chiefs early, but the visitors got better the longer the match went.

Hika Elliot, Lelia Masaga, Colin Bourke and Tim Nanai-Williams all scored tries while Stephen Donald added 17 points with his boot.

The Chiefs were returning from South Africa after wins over the Sharks and Lions, but were without injured trio Craig Clarke, Sitiveni Sivivatu and James McGougan, and suspended No. 8 Sione Lauaki.

They covered them well and look capable of matching their final appearance of last season.

The Force's injury woes eased with Mark Bartholomeusz, Nick Cummins, Ryan Cross and the newly re-signed Scott Staniforth back in leaving only David Pocock, Richard Brown and Cameron Shepherd on the sidelines.

Despite O'Connor looking good at flyhalf and Brett Sheehan playing well at halfback, the Force couldn’t find a way over for a try, though, until Ryan Cross picked off a pass in the final minutes.

They will look forward to a bye to regroup from losses to the Brumbies, Hurricanes and now Chiefs.

O'Connor's brilliant efforts to find space, evade tacklers and set up his teammates was on show early and the Force got close to at least three first-half tries, but were held up by the Chiefs.

Donald and O'Connor shared penalties in the first 15 minutes, and the Force had a chance to go in front thanks to some brilliant play from halfback Sheehan.

He was able to get a quick in from deep in his own half, chase it down and lay a heavy tackle on Chiefs fullback Michael Delany to earn the penalty.

His kick went just wide and then the Chiefs capitalised by snaffling a Force lineout. Scrumhalf Brendon Leonard got hold of the ball, put in a good kick that he chased down and then set up the try beautifully.

He shared the ball with prop Nathan White and hooker Elliot, and it was Elliot who crossed for the first try of the game, and only five-pointer of the opening half.

Donald converted to give the Chiefs a 10-3 lead and it was then 13-3 when he converted on a soft penalty from the scrum. The Force got the same treatment just before half-time earning a penalty from the scrum and Sheehan nailed it from right on the 50-metre mark.

The Force made a strong attacking opening to the second-half and earned two penalties that O'Connor converted, but that momentum was halted when Donald nailed a penalty of his own to keep the visitors up 16-12.

The win for the Chiefs was then secured with just over 20 minutes to go when they scored from another Force lineout gone wrong.

Once the ball got into the Chiefs hands, Dwyane Sweeney passed to Callum Bruce who got it to right-winger Masaga and he had no trouble getting to the line. Donald converted to make the score 23-12.

The Chiefs continued their charge against a tiring Force when No. 8 Bourke barged through Ben McCalman to score a bullocking try.

Cross intercepted a poor Chiefs pass to score a try for the Force, but even that was overshadowed when the Chiefs earned a bonus-point when replacement fullback Nanai-Williams scored on one of the last plays of the game.

The Force can now regroup with a bye next week with former Chiefs and All Blacks playmaker David Hill to be available to face the Reds in Brisbane before three straight home matches.

The Chiefs return home after a successful three-week tour to start the season to face the Reds and Crusaders the next fortnight.

Force 19 (Ryan Cross try; James O'Connor con, 3 pen; Brett Sheehan pen) Chiefs 37 (Hika Elliot, Lelia Masaga, Colin Bourke, Tim Nanai-Williams tries; Stephen Donald 4 con, 3 pen). HT: 13-6