Mid-season Report Card: The Chiefs

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Played: 6

Won: 4

Lost: 2

 

Position: Fifth

 

Most Points: Aaron Cruden 39

 

Most Tries: Solomon Alaimalo 4

 

THE STORY SO FAR

After starting in such promising fashion, albeit with concerns about their failure to make good starts to games, the competition suspension came with the Chiefs having suffered some key losses. They beat the Blues in their first game 37-29, the result of Aaron Cruden taking control when coming on for the second half. They followed that with a deserved 25-15 win over the Crusaders at home and then beat the Sunwolves in Tokyo 43-17. However, back at home, they were ambushed by a rising Brumbies side who took a 26-14 win away from Hamilton. After their bye, they unleashed a 51-14 assault on the Waratahs but then lost to the Hurricanes 24-27 when Jordie Barrett landed a last-minute penalty goal.

BEST PERFORMANCE

Some might be inclined to rate the second-half effort against the Waratahs as the side's best effort, but any win over the defending champion Crusaders is going to be hard to surpass and being a New Zealand derby it carried even more weight. It was also a demonstration of the way the Chiefs have reacted to former Wales coach Warren Gatland taking over the coaching direction of the side. This was a full-on, no holds barred contest with the Crusaders, with David Havili playing first five-eighths, out to a two-try lead. But it was the key moments after halftime, a traditional area of Crusaders strength that proved significant as halfback Toiroa Te Tahuriorangi sniped across for a try. The Chiefs got further ahead with Sean Wainui scoring and then a good old-fashioned defensive contest rounded out the game.

BREAKOUT STAR

Some stunning individual efforts have marked the campaign, Cruden against the Blues, Weber's two tries against the Waratahs and Solomon Alaimalo against the Hurricanes, but for sheer consistency across the season flanker Lachlan Boshier has been the most impressive. That's all the more significant when realising he plays alongside All Blacks flanker Sam Cane, who has been in the thick of the action as well. It's not a feat easily recognisable in the available statistics but when it comes to turnovers won there have been few players more conspicuous as the melees break up and reveal who is in the thick of the turnover battle.

THE TASK AHEAD

Achieving a degree of consistency with the finest form they have displayed on occasions this year will be the goal for the Chiefs when resuming. They are capable of playing explosive, attacking rugby by harnessing the sharp individual skills of many of their players, but they are equally able to turn on rugged, and effective, defence as their win over the Crusaders showed.  There is little doubt that the Chiefs are one team that no other in the competition can afford to take lightly because if they light up they can do severe damage, just ask the Waratahs.

 

ENCOURAGEMENT FACTORS

The enjoyment factor is written across everything the Chiefs have shown to date. There is an appealing edge to their play and when able to unleash the skills of their backs, on the back of hard work by their pack, then Damian McKenzie, Solomon Alaimalo, Shaun Stevenson, and the general in command Anton Lienert-Brown, they are unstoppable. That's without mentioning Aaron Cruden, halfback Brad Weber, wing Sean Wainui, utility Alex Nankiville and emerging prospect Tumua Manu.

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