Chiefs battle past Sharks, top of table

09:51, Apr 22 2012
Chiefs v Highlanders
Sonny Bill Williams jumps above Josh Bekhuis.
Chiefs v Highlanders
Chris Noakes comes in to tackle Fritz Lee.
Chiefs v Highlanders
Sonny Bill Williams on the charge against the Highlanders.
Chiefs v Highlanders
Adam Thomson passes against the Chiefs.
Chiefs v Highlanders
Andrew Hore trys to stop Lelia Masaga as he scores the Chiefs' first try.
Tim Nanai-Williams
Chiefs fullback Tim Nanai-Williams eludes the desperate dive of Blues halfback Alby Mathewson.
Aaron Cruden
Aaron Cruden kicks for goal during the Chiefs round two win over the Blues.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow
Tawera Kerr-Barlow dives over for his try during the Chiefs round two win over the Blues.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow
Tawera Kerr-Barlow dives over for his try during the Chiefs round two win over the Blues.
Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden and Jerome Kaino
Piri Weepu and Jerome Kaino of the Blues chase down Aaron Cruden and the ball.
Chiefs players celebrate
Chiefs players Andrew Horrell, Sam Cane and Aaron Cruden celebrate their victory over the Blues.
Richard Kahui
Chiefs centre Richard Kahui watches anxiously from the bench in the second half.
Tim Nanai-Williams and Israel Dagg
Chiefs wing Tim Nanai-Williams passes the ball in-field as he is pushed to the ground by Israel Dagg.
George Whitelock and Liam Messam
Crusaders No 6 George Whitelock brings down a kick-off, under pressure from his Chiefs opposite Liam Messam.
Chiefs v Crusaders gallery
Tim Nanai-Williams of the Chiefs picks up a loose ball under pressure from Israel Dagg of the Crusaders.
Chiefs v Crusaders gallery
Tawera Kerr-Barlow of the Chiefs is tackled by Kieran Read of the Crusaders.
Chiefs v Crusaders gallery
Aaron Cruden of the Chiefs gets a kick away while being tackled against the Crusaders at McLean Park.
Chiefs v Crusaders gallery
George Whitelock (L) and Corey Flynn of the Crusaders tackle Robbie Robinson of the Chiefs.
Chiefs v Crusaders gallery
The Chiefs' Arizona Taumalolo celebrates with Brodie Retallick at the end of their match against the Crusaders.
Chiefs v Crusaders gallery
Hika Elliot, Sonny Bill Williams, Zac Guildford, and Israel Dagg ham it up after their match at McLean Park.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
A bloody Liam Messam in action against the Brumbies.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Aaron Cruden in action against the Brumbies.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Liam Messam on the charge against the Brumbies.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Richard Kahui on the charge against the Brumbies.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Robbie Robinson passes against the Brumbies.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Sonny Bill Williams could command top dollar to secure a contract after his stint with the Chiefs.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Arizona Taumalolo scores a try against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Tawera Kerr-Barlow on the charge against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Chiefs players celebrate after Liam Messam scores against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Liam Messam scores against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Tanerau Latimer on the charge against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny Bill Williams charges at the Force defence in Perth.
Lelia Masaga
Chiefs wing Lelia Masaga performs 'The Dougie' after scoring against the Force.
Sona Taumalolo
A tough man to bring down, Sona Taumalolo carries a Force player on his back.
Richard Kahui
Richard Kahui runs clear of Winston Stanley at nib Stadium.
Sonny Bill Williams
Piet van Zyl of the Cheetahs mid flight while playing the Chiefs.
Sonny Bill Williams
Richard Kahui of the Chiefs in action against the Cheetahs.
Sonny Bill Williams
Hennie Daniller of the Cheetahs is tackled by the Chiefs.
Sonny Bill Williams
Craig Clarke, centre, of the Chiefs is tackled by Robert Ebersohn of the Cheetahs.
Chiefs v Sharks
Tawera Kerr-Barlow in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Chiefs v Sharks
Asaeli Tikoirotuma in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Chiefs v Sharks
Tawera Kerr-Barlow in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Chiefs v Sharks
Sonny Bill Williams in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Chiefs v Sharks
Charl Mcleod of the Sharks looks to tackle Alex Bradley at Mr Price Kings Park.
Chiefs v Sharks
Alex Bradley in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Chiefs' players pay tribute to Sir Fred Allen prior to their game against the Hurricanes at Waikato Stadium.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Chiefs' hooker Hika Elliot makes a charge down field.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Chiefs' second-five eighth Sony Bill Williams attempts to offload in the tackle.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Chiefs second five-eighth Sonny Bill Williams is tackled by Lions No8 Joshua Strauss.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Chiefs wing Lelia Masaga is tackled by Lions wing Lionel Mapoe and fullback Andries Coetzee.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Chiefs halfback Brendon Leonard is tackled by Lions No8 Joshua Strauss.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna reacts to the try of captain Craig Clarke.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Chiefs captain Craig Clarke drives over to score.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Chiefs first five-eighth Aaron Cruden avoids the tackles of Lions fullback Andries Coetzee.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Jake Schatz of the Reds is tackled by Chiefs players.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Aaron Cruden of the Cheifs makes a break past Jake Schatz of the Reds.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Richard Kahui of the Chiefs is treated after being injured against the Reds.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Will Genia of the Reds celebrates with team mates after scoring against the Chiefs.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Mike Harris of the Reds passes against the Chiefs.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Jake Schatz of the Reds is tackled against the Chiefs at Suncorp Stadium.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma
Chiefs left wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma dives over for a try against the Bulls.
Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny Bill Williams makes a breakaway in the Chiefs win over the Bulls.
Sam Cane
Sam Cane celebrates his try against the Bulls.
Aaron Cruden
Aaron Cruden in action against the Bulls.
Blues v Chiefs
Chiefs and Blues players have a group hug at North Harbour Stadium.
Blues v Chiefs
Asaeli Tikoirotuma chases the ball.
Blues v Chiefs
Blues player Francis Saili is tackled by Chiefs player Sona Taumalolo.
Blues v Chiefs
Sonny Bill Williams tackles Francis Saili.
Highlanders v Chiefs
Chiefs player Sonny Bill Williams is tackled by Highlanders player Tamati Ellison.
Highlanders v Chiefs
Highlanders players lie gutted on the ground after losing to the Chiefs 21-27.
Highlanders v Chiefs
Highlanders player Hosea Gear about to be tackled by Sonny Bill Williams.
Highlanders v Chiefs
Highlanders player Jarrad Hoeata is tackled.
Chiefs v Crusaders
Richie McCaw comes in to tackle Sona Taumalolo.
Chiefs v Crusaders
Owen Franks tackles Brodie Retallick as he scores his first half try.
Chiefs v Crusaders
Sonny Bill Williams scores his second half try.
Chiefs v Crusaders
Israel Dagg takes a high ball in front of Aaron Cruden.
Chiefs v Crusaders
Sam Cane gets a high ball.
Chiefs v Crusaders
Hika Elliot fends of Israel Dagg.
Hurricanes v Chiefs
Hurricanes' Motu Matu'u celebrates their win over the Chiefs.
Hurricanes v Chiefs
Hurricanes' Julian Savea scores a try against the Chiefs.
Hurricanes v Chiefs
Chiefs' Sonny Bill Williams in action against the Hurricanes.
Hurricanes v Chiefs
Chiefs' Liam Messam in action against the Hurricanes.

The Chiefs have consolidated their position at the top of the Super Rugby table with a record seventh victory in a row and a perfect return of three out of three on their overseas tour.

They climaxed their hardest-fought victory to date - an 18-12 win early today (NZ time) over a tough Sharks outfit at Kings Park in Durban - with a cheeky try after the final hooter to young replacement halfback Augustine Pulu.

Until then the Chiefs had hung in with their trademark hard-working and efficient defence, clinging to a 10-3 halftime lead that young Sharks first-five Patrick Lambie chipped away at with his goal-kicking.

Alex Bradley
NO LAG: Alex Bradley in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.

The Chiefs were only able to add one penalty goal of their own in the second spell until Pulu's audacious blindside dab from a driving maul after the fulltime siren had sounded, when the home side no doubt expected him to kick the ball out, instead of beating JP Pietersen in a run to the right-hand corner.

The result put the Chiefs back at the top of the overall table after being temporarily overhauled by South Africa's Stormers on Friday night when they downed the defending champion Reds 23-13 in Brisbane. It followed tour wins over the Force in Perth and the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein and the Chiefs now return home to host the Hurricanes in Hamilton next Saturday night.

The Chiefs, who are five points clear of the Highlanders at the top of the New Zealand conference table, have now conceded just eight tries in eight matches to confirm they have the best defence in the competition - a major turnaround from previous seasons and a major credit not only to new defensive coach Wayne Smith but the work ethic instilled in the players by head coach Dave Rennie and his team.

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The Chiefs led 10-3 at halftime after absorbing an early aggressive assault on their line by the home side, holding out against 14 phases in one sustained attack.

But they soon worked their way into the attacking quarter to build phases of their own, with hard working forwards such as No8 Alex Bradley and flanker Sam Cane carrying the ball strongly.

The breakthrough came in the 19th minute when first five-eighth Aaron Cruden was able to stroll over beside the posts untouched from a subtle offload from fullback Andrew Horrell close to the ruck with the hole opened up by a dummy runner coming back on the inside.

Cruden converted his own try and kicked a 30th minute penalty goal to put the Chiefs out to a 10-0 lead, Lambie not replying for the Sharks until right on halftime with a three-pointer of his own.

While the Chiefs' lineout dominated and their scrum held its own, handling errors marred the play of both teams, with the ball made slippery by the hot, humid conditions at Kings Park.

Sonny Bill Williams found he could not employ his usual one-handed offloading game, losing the ball several times as a result.

Possession and territorial statistics turned around in the Sharks' favour in the second half as they dominated the ball and the Chiefs found themselves unable to maintain any continuity, losing the ball through handling errors or penalised by Kiwi referee Garratt Williamson.

However, the home team's only reward against the relentless Chiefs defence were three penalty goals to Lambie, to Cruden's solitary success, to leave the match wide open at just 13-12 to the visitors.

Horrell kicked the Chiefs back into Sharks territory as the home side spilled the ball on attack, Cruden followed with an ambitious and unsuccessful penalty attempt from 53 metres out and the home side desperately tried to spread the ball wide deep in their own half.

The result was an error with a pass thrown over the touchline and the Chiefs predictably hung on to the ball and drove from the ensuing lineout as the final seconds ticked away, but with the hooter sounded Pulu sensed a running opportunity and darted down the blindside to score.

"It's very satisfying to have a tour where you win three from three," Chiefs skipper Craig Clarke said.

"It doesn't happen too often so we're pretty chuffed, but we're just a little bit relieved with the way that game unfolded," he said.

Chiefs 18 (Aaron Cruden, Augustine Pulu tries; Cruden conversion, 2 penalty goals)

Sharks 12 (Patrick Lambie 4 penalty goals).

Halftime: 10-3 Chiefs.

Fairfax Media