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Life without Aaron Cruden looks
pretty promising for the Chiefs judging
by last night ’s 35-27 win over the Force.
A week that began with the All Black
being ruled out for the rest of the season
ended in much more positive fashion,
with his teammates seeing off the Force
While the quality of the opposition
was questionable at best, with the West
Australians having now lost nine in a
row, the Chiefs impressed in most facets
to continue a streak of their own.
Victory meant Dave Rennie’s side
have won four straight matches for the
first time since June 2013, a run that
arrived in their last title-winning season.
And, aside from a defence that leaked
four tries, Rennie will be satisfied with
his side’s current from after last week’s
dismantling of the Crusaders.
If anyone doubted how they would
adapt shorn of their backline general, the
Chiefs’ attack did much to silence those
doubts. Marty McKenzie turned in a
solid display in the No 10 jersey, kicking
well both in general play and from the
tee to add 15 points with the boot.
The first five rarely ran but he barely
had the reason, not with the physicality
in front of him and the flair on his
outside. But the Chiefs won’t be getting
too carried away, given there were
extenuating circumstances contributing
to a level of control that belied the
eventual eight-point margin.
The last thing the luckless Force needed
was to see red, yet halfback Ian Prior left
Angus Gardner with no choice but to
brandish that particular colour, with his
tip tackle on Tim Nanai-Williams as
dangerous as it was foolish.
The dismissal left the 14-man Force
with 50 minutes to play and was
especially cruel considering the visitors
had initially looked nothing like a team
who had lost eight straight, playing with
purpose and and a level of composure
that produced the game’s opening try.
But the problems for the Force
presented two-fold. The first issue was
at scrum time where, even before Prior’s
dismissal led to the withdrawal of
flanker Angus Cottrell, they had already
been pushed back 10m in the first scrum
of the game.
The substitution saw the Chiefs gain
even more ascendancy in the scrum
and, after they were prevented a first-
half pushover try only by illegal means,
another dominant set piece in the second
spell saw Gardner award a penalty try.
The other issue for the Force was
when were without the ball. Because
the Chiefs’ attack played near its electric
best, exemplified in the move that led to
their opening try from Charlie Ngatai.
Nanai-Williams played a huge part
in both that and the Chiefs’ general
threat, proving elusive whenever he
was possession, while the midfield
combination of Sonny Bill Williams
and Charlie Ngatai left the Force
overmatched in the middle of the park.
But, if the attack was a strength, the
defence was unusually weak, shipping
two tries in five minutes to allow the
Force closer than they had any right to be.
Perhaps, missing Cruden and the rested
Liam Messam, the decision to withdraw
Sam Cane and Brodie Retallick left too
much experience sitting on the sidelines.
Whatever the reason, the Chiefs were
left grateful for Nanai-Williams match-
sealing try, securing a bonus point and a
victory that showed there is indeed life
Chiefs 35 (Ngatai, Elliot, Nanai-
Williams tries, penalty try; McKenzie
3 pens, 3 cons), Force 27 (Cottrell,
Morahan, Hodgson, Tessmann tries;
Burton pen, 2 cons). — NZME
Team Wellington and
Auckland City FC face
off in the final of the
night, where the winner
will receive arguably
the greatest prize in
worldwide amateur sport.
champion will receive a
minimum of $659,000,
which is split with New
Zealand Football, and a
spot alongside some of
the best club teams in the
world at the Fifa Club
World Cup in Japan.
As Auckland showed
last year by coming third,
there is potential to turn
a team of part-timers into
million dollar makers.
But first the two ASB
Premiership teams have
to slug it out in the Fijian
Auckland are the
and favourites, but
coach Ramon Tribulietx
believes Wellington are
the “complete team” and
will provide a formidable
“ Team Wellington are
one of those teams who
can capitalise when they
have a lot of possession,”
Tribulietx said. “ The
game is going to be pretty
even and very difficult,
probably one of the most
difficult games we’ ll have
played in the last few
Wellington has beaten
Auckland twice this
season, once in the
ASB Charity Cup final
on penalties in the
season curtainraiser and
again 4-0 in the ASB
Premiership in November.
But the last time they met
in February Auckland
comfortably won 3-0.
“Every game is different
but we know each other
very well, that ’s the reality.
They know what we are
trying to do with and
without the ball. We
know their players and
how they normally try to
“There’s probably going
to be very few surprises
in there. They are a very
complete team, if I can say
it that way, with talent up
front, goalscorers up front
and physical midfielders.”
Auckland are at full
strength but a number of
Wellington’s key attackers
are under an injury cloud.
Former All Whites
Jarrod Smith and Jake
Butler are unlikely to
recover from injuries in
time. Michael Gwyther,
who has scored the side’s
last three goals, will have
a fitness test today after
suffering a knee injury in
win over Ba.
Auckland’s strength is
in their structure, tactical
and they are led by a solid
Wellington, who have
added new signings Chris
Bale, Aaron Scott, Jake
Butler and Tom Jackson
to their starting XI, are
dangerous at set pieces
and possess pace up front
to test the Auckland rear
guard. — NZ ME
The Wests Tigers
returned to winning ways
in style last night with
a comprehensive 38-14
victory over an under-
par Canterbury at ANZ
Two tries apiece from
Luke Brooks, James
Tedesco and Pat Richards
banished memories of last
week’s collapse against
But it was the golden
boot of veteran winger
Richards and a freakish
first-half play from Kevin
Naiqama that set the
platform for the win.
With just four minutes
on the clock, a Tedesco
grubber kick appeared
to be heading out of the
in-goal area only for
Naiqama to lunge for ward
and scoop the ball over his
head and into the grateful
arms of the onrushing
fullback. Richards added
the extras with his first of
six successful kicks before
Naiqama crossed for a
another smart Tedesco
Brooks added a third try
with less than 15 minutes
played after his speculative
kick from midfield took a wicked bounce
over the head of Sam Perret, then crashed off
the upright and the halfback raced through
to grab the rebound and score.
Shellshocked by their horror start, the
Bulldogs finally managed to get on the
scoresheet through Frank Pritchard midway
through the opening stanza.
But on the stroke of half-time, Richards
returned to the field following stitches for a
facial cut to convert a monster 55m kick from
inside his own half to open up an 18-6 lead.
Tedesco scored his second just after the
restart, putting the finishing touches to a
length-of-the-field try after being put in the
clear by Naiqama.
A Richards penalty stretched the Tigers’
lead before Brooks ended the game as a
contest from close range after some poor
defence from the home side.
Pritchard and Curtis Rona crossed late in
the game for the Bulldogs but there was to be
no repeat of the fightback that secured their
25-24 victory over the Tigers in round four as
Richards went over in the corner in the final
Tigers coach Jason Taylor said he was
delighted with the way his side bounced back
from last week’s morale-sapping loss to the
Raiders with a much-improved performance.
“ We played for the full 80 minutes, I
wanted us to go right to the bell and we
played until the finish,” Taylor said.
“ We have only played for the full 80
minutes once this season and to do it and
beat a quality side like Canterbury is very
Canterbury coach Des Hasler was upset
with his side’s first-half effort and made his
players return to the field five minutes before
the end of half-time to warm up.
Hasler played down the significance of the
decision but admitted his side were poor.
“ We weren’t too good tonight and paid the
price,” Hasler said.
“Our third-quarter starts been been a bit
dusty and I wanted to get their heart rates
going. The Tigers got up in our faces and
scored three tries off kicks and we couldn’t
get any momentum.” — AAP
PICTURE: Getty Images
Tigers Kevin Naiqama keeps the ball in play for James Tedesco to score in laswt night ’s clash with the
Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium, in Sydney.
Tigers outplay Bulldogs
Chiefs dispatch Force
The question that has stayed close to the top
of the All Black selectors’ agenda this year is
who would they most trust as their goalkicker
in the knockout rounds of the World Cup.
The answer, regardless of what statistics may
suggest in Super Rugby, is Daniel Carter.
Whatever else Carter may or may not be,
he remains the man who the coaching panel
believe is most likely to bang over critical goals
in the big games of a World Cup.
It is that treasured, trusted left boot of his
that is keeping him foremost in the minds of
the All Black selectors as they project further
into the year and consider who will start at No
But while Carter has undisputed goalkicking
pedigree, there are other parts of his game that
are not yet functioning well enough to justify
selecting him as the first choice No 10.
Carter is still to prove that he has confidence
in his running game. So far this year he has not
been willing to impose himself physically —
whether it be with or without the ball — the
way he used to.
Too often he is shovelling ball and
contributing to the Crusaders’ lateral attack.
Carter of old would have taken responsibility
for straightening the attack and challenging
the line; of thrusting himself into the fray to
put pressure on the defensive line.
Understandably, there are some long-term
observers wondering whether Carter can
rekindle his game. The All Black selectors
are likely to be at the mild end of that scale:
confident, but not overly so, that while Carter
isn’t ever going to be the player he was in
2005, he can still be the best first-five in New
With 102 test caps and a world record 1457
points, Carter has proven himself as a world
class goalkicker since he nailed his first kick
against Wales in June 2003. His overall success
ratio in test football of 77% places him at the
top end of the regular, elite kickers.
A comprehensive research project by New
Zealand Rugby’s Ken Q uarrie published last
year, found the average success ratio in test
rugby between 2002 and 2011 was 72% and
based on the raw data, Carter was ranked 19th
When the numbers were adjusted to factor in
the length and angle of the kick; the perceived
pressure based on a formula of score in the
game against time left and the difficulty factor
of the venue, Carter was ranked third.
And it is that proven ability of his to
successfully convert difficult kicks at critical
times that make him such a vital piece of the
World Cup jigsaw. Under pressure, Carter
remains the best goalkicker in the country
and unquestionably, knock-out games at the
World Cup are going to see the All Blacks
come under the most intense pressure.
World Cup history has been consistent and
therefore ser ves as an accurate guide to safely
predict that the outcome of the
biggest games will be determined
by goalkicking. New Zealand travel
to England as defending champions
thanks to Stephen Donald ’s 45m
second-half goal at Eden Park.
South Africa won the 2007 final
all the points coming
from penalties and in 2003, Elton
Flatley and Jonny Wilkinson traded
penalties until the latter separated
the two teams with a drop goal in the 100th
In the seven World Cup finals so far, 77% of
all the points scored have come from goalkicks
be it penalties, conversions or drop goals.
The semi-finals in 2011 threw up a similar
picture with only two tries in total being
None of this has escaped the attention of the
All Black coaches and goalkicking will carry
a heavy weighting when they come to select
their starting team.
“Goalkicking is high on our agenda both in
terms of the importance it carries collectively
for the team and also on an individual basis,”
says All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster.
“History tells you that it is important and we
continue to study it, to monitor it and to work
on it. But there are a number of other variables
we have to consider in regard to selection as
well. We have lost an experienced kicker in
Crudes (Aaron Cruden) but Daniel has a
proven track record in the international game
and Beauden Barrett has been kicking a lot
with the Hurricanes and kicking pretty well.
“Sladey (Colin Slade) is probably the most
improved and he showed last year he’s got
the ability to kick pressure goals so while we
need world class goalkicking, we are pretty
confident we have the players who can deliver
They will not judge players so much on
Super Rugby numbers — it will be more
about previous success in the test arena.
Last year Barrett ’s success rate in the Rugby
Championship was 67%.
Slade, who kicked only twice in the
competition had the same figure but built
confidence in his ability to perform under
pressure when he came off the bench in
Brisbane and slotted a tough last minute
conversion to win the test.
It is Carter, though, who has the numbers
and the experience to set a nation’s nerves at
NZ sides in
Carter still top pick for kicker
coach Ernie Merrick is
embracing the high-stakes
nature of tomorrow ’s
regular season finale
against Sydney FC in the
If the Phoenix win they
will book second place
on the A-League ladder,
which would give them
a bye during the opening
round of the play-offs
before they would host a
semifinal the following
week. L ose and they could
drop to as low as fourth
depending on other
results this weekend.
Last week’s 3-2 win
over the Central Coast
Mariners jolted the
Phoenix back to life
after a rough month
that included back-to-
back 3-0 home defeats
against Sydney FC and
Merrick said he
welcomed the pressure-
cooker environment of
tomorrow ’s clash with
“I don’t want to keep
them grounded,” Merrick
said of his players. “I want
to keep them excited,
positive and looking
towards scoring goals
and playing in front of,
hopefully, the biggest
crowd of the year at
Westpac Stadium on
Sunday night.” — NZME
The rub on the Reds goes something
along the lines of: They ’re a team with
good individuals, they play direct and
have a solid scrum.
They are also a side who have won two
from nine and are the worst attacking
team in Super Rugby in terms of points
scored this season.
It all adds up to the fact that tomorrow ’s
game between the Hurricanes and the
Reds at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane
shapes as a banana-skin encounter for
the Hurricanes. Chris Boyd’s side were
given a scare last weekend when they
were tipped over 29-24 by the Waratahs
— their first defeat of the season.
Tomorrow ’s match marks the last time
the Hurricanes will travel offshore this
year. “ They ’ve got some individuals that
are really good on their feet and good
ball players,” Hurricanes skipper Conrad
Smith said of the Reds. “ They ’ve still got
the makings of a really good side.”
Super Rugby is not the type of
competition where you can take a week
off against anyone, so whether it is pre-
match bluster or not, you get the feeling
the Hurricanes are aware the Reds are a
“They ’ve got a really good scrum.
They ’re quite direct, quite powerful,”
Boyd said. “ They ’ve been unlucky in a lot
of their games but they ’re a good side and
playing in Brisbane is a tough assignment,
The Reds upset the Cheetahs 18-17 in
Bloemfontein last weekend, which would
have given them a dose of confidence.
Nix ready for huge game
Hurricanes wary of Reds
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