Chiefs crowned 2012 Investec Super Rugby champs
allblacks.com 04 Aug 2012
The three tries to none margin told the difference between the sides in a final which never reached the heights both teams achieved in their semi-final wins, the Chiefs over the Crusaders and the Sharks over the Stormers.
The win represented more success for the Waikato region after the netball triumph of the local side in the Australasian competition and the Olympic success of the New Zealand rowing team which has its high performance base in the area.
On a night where the travel-tired Sharks needed everything to be done with precision, they too often coughed up ball to reduce their opportunities. They lacked cohesion and direction and in spite of all their positivity before the game, the travel factor must have contributed to their ineffectiveness.
The Chiefs were not so compromised, although the penchant of first five-eighths Aaron Cruden, who contributed 17 points with his boot, to have his attempted grubber kicks blocked could have been a frustration on a different night. But it was the snappy distribution, and thinking, of livewire Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr Barlow that offered a significant point of difference between the sides. His clearance from the ground was consistently outstanding.
Robbie Robinson continued to demonstrate his effectiveness at fullback by charging at speed into the far bulkier Sharks defenders but more often than not he rebounded and made good ground downfield.
The first try scorer Tim Nanai Williams popped up everywhere and was another not to be intimidated by the size of the opposition. Flankers Liam Messam and Tanerau Latimer ranged all over the field with menace while prop Ben Tameifuna demonstrated with some solid hits that he has been one of the emerging players in the competition. Lock Brodie Retallick was another whose contribution in the tight typified his outstanding season.
The turning point came five minutes into the second half when lock and captain Craig Clarke charged down an attempted clearing kick from first five-eighths Frederic Michalak and a five-metre scrum was awarded to the Chiefs.
Amazingly, as the ball came back No.8 Kane Thompson looked up to see a huge gap through which he charged to go over in the tackle of flanker Keegan Daniel to score beside the posts. Cruden's conversion took the Chiefs to a 20-3 lead.
The Sharks defence had been uncompromising through the initial stages, rattling the home team with some jarring tackles courtesy of No.8 Ryan Kankowski, a menace from the outset, flankers Marcell Coetzee and Keegan Daniel and the front row brothers Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis.
The Chiefs finally broke the shackles in the 18th minute after a chip kick from first five-eighths Aaron Cruden which caught fullback Pat Lambie in two minds. The ball rebounded from Lambie to centre Andrew Horrell and he carried play forward. It was moved back to the right where second five-eighths Sonny Bill Williams broke through and linked with fullback Robbie Robinson. He carried play to the line and from the ruck it was moved to the left where right wing Tim Nanai Williams wormed his way between the Du Plessis brothers to go across in the tackle. Cruden added the conversion.
Six minutes later Cruden landed a penalty goal from wide out to negate that which first five-eighths Frederic Michalak landed in the sixth minute to open the scoring.
In the 32nd minute a piece of indiscipline from Jannie du Plessis who punched Chiefs hooker Mahonri Schwalger after referee Steve Walsh had already awarded a penalty to the Sharks saw the penalty reversed and Cruden punished the Sharks further when landing a 45m penalty goal.
It typified the Sharks night that they were attempting to run ball out of their half only for the ball to rebound into the arms of replacement wing Lelia Masaga. He had 40m to run but put his speed to great use with an in-out move that left Lambie stranded.
And in a finale to the region he has enhanced with his play this year Sonny Bill Williams had the final say with a try under the bar to seal the win.
It was, finally, a win that exorcised the memory of the Chiefs only other final, the 61-17 loss to the Bulls in 2009.
Chiefs 37 (Tim Nanai-Williams, Kane Thompson, Lelia Masaga, Sonny Bill Williams tries; Aaron Cruden 4 con, 3 pen) Sharks 6 (Frederic Michalak 2 pen). HT: 13-3
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