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Chiefs deal to lowly Lions

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Sportal.co.nz     05 May 2012     Getty Images

Fielding a side reflecting the need to rest key personnel, the Chiefs were not as fluid as their top of the table position suggested but a Lions team vulnerable to error-making under pressure was unable to make any significant impact on the scoreboard despite the best efforts of hard-working No. 8 Joshua Strauss.

The Chiefs were given early warning of the Lions intent to move the ball after first five-eighths Aaron Cruden opened the scoring with a fourth minute penalty goal. The Lions stormed onto attack and went close to scoring after halfback Ross Cronje opted to take a tap kick at a goalable penalty chance. Flanker Grant Hattingh was ruled to have been held up over the line and when another penalty was conceded at the resulting scrum, the Lions chose a lineout.

But the determination of the home team on defence was exemplified by hooker Hika Elliot, who was making his 50th appearance for the Chiefs. He ripped the ball away and the Chiefs cleared to end a solid five minutes of earnest effort from the Lions. They had their reward when getting back on attack as Cruden landed his second penalty goal in the 14th minute.

Admirable as the Lions intent was, the potential for mistakes was exposed in the 17th minute when ball was lost and quickly moved just out from the Chiefs 22m area. No.8 Kane Thompson and prop Toby Smith helped move the ball quickly through the backline and it was Cruden who made the dart over the line for the try.

Second five-eighths Sonny Bill Williams tidied up ball at a ruck close to the Lions line and when held the ruck created the chance for captain and lock Craig Clarke to pick up and drive over for his first Super Rugby try. Cruden's conversion carried the Chiefs to a 20-0 lead.

But the Lions would not be quelled and showed the strength of their lineout mauling play when effectively defying the home defence for replacement forward Cobus Grobbelaar to score in the 33rd minute. First five-eighths Elton Jantjes added the conversion.

The Chiefs got within a hairs breadth of scoring a third try just before half-time following a sharp blindside break by halfback Brendon Leonard. He linked with fullback Andrew Horrell who raced through the gap and then kicked ahead. Speedy wing Lelia Masaga followed up and grounded the ball but was ruled to have touched the deadball line to rule out the try.

However, he had his reward eight minutes into the second half after a lengthy period of tooing and froing from both sides but which finally resulted in turnover ball being moved and Cruden choosing to chip over the defence, regather and then feed Masaga into a 25m sprint for the line.

Again, the response was immediate with another rolling maul producing the chance for skipper and Strauss touched down with Jantjes' conversion making the score 27-14.

Errors frustrated the Lions endeavours. Twice Jantjes failed to kick restarts 10m while numerous handling lapses in potentially try scoring situations reduced their ability to keep in touch with the home side. But a typical example followed in the 55th minute when flanker Grant Hattingh went to ground and threw a pass which rebounded from halfback Cronje into the arms of his Chiefs' rival Leonard.

He kicked ahead to land and in the chase to cover the ball, Masaga got a foot to the ball and Leonard, following up dived on the ball short of the line only to carry over the line in a dewy slide.

Utilising the most dangerous aspect of their play, the Lions scored from another lineout maul in the 67th minute when Grobelaar, back on the field in his own right, crossed for his second try. Typically though, any hope of a late fightback was conceded from the restart when Strauss knocked on the kick-off.


Scorers:

Chiefs 34 (Aaron Cruden, Craig Clarke, Lelia Masaga, Brendon Leonard tries, Cruden 4 con, 2 pen) Lions 21 (Cobus Grobelaar 2, Joshua Strauss tries; Elton Jantjes 3 con ). HT: 20-7