Chiefs bounce back to winning form in Super Rugby
Lock Tupou Vaa'i scored two tries for the Hamilton-based Chiefs who bounced back rapidly from their first loss of the season to beat the Wellington-based Hurricanes 23-12 in a rain-soaked Super Rugby Pacific match.
The Chiefs' 10-match winning streak ended last weekend when they were beaten by the Queensland Reds.
They quickly rebounded by winning on Saturday to cement their place atop the table and ensured they will host a home playoff.
The match took place in torrential rain in Hamilton which limited attacking options.
The Chiefs made the best of their few choices, using their lineout drive and kicking well as the rain made the contest for the high ball a lottery.
They led 10-0 at halftime but the Hurricanes came back into the match strongly with two second-half tries, only to be repelled by two late penalties by Chiefs flyhalf Damian McKenzie.
"When it comes to this point in the season the weather changes and the rugby we play has to change accordingly," Chiefs captain Sam Cane said.
"It was always going to be a battle of the forwards when the weather came in like that and it won't be pieces of individual brilliance that wins games at this point in the season, it will be collective effort."
The Chiefs scored their first try from a lineout drive after six minutes. When the drive seemed to stall, the backs rushed in and added the impetus which carried hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho over the line.
The Hurricanes overthrew a lineout in the 21st minute and the Chiefs pounced.
Pita-Gus Sowakula carried the ball forward strongly and Vaa'i was on hand to promote it over the line.
Vaa'i scored again in the 47th from another Hurricanes lineout error, stooping low to place the ball over the line.
The Hurricanes came back with two good tries in the conditions.
Fullback Josh Moorby made a break down the right flank, fending tacklers then kicking ahead and winning the race to the ball behind the goal line.
Backrower Brayden Iose then intercepted a loose pass on halfway and dashed away to score as the Hurricanes denied the Chiefs a bonus point.
But McKenzie landed penalties in the 66th and 75th minutes which kept the Hurricanes at bay.