OPINION: The Chiefs deserve every accolade that comes their way after securing their first Super Rugby title.
It was a commanding performance from Dave Rennie's side and a fitting finale to what has been a great campaign.
It's refreshing to see a new side in charge and this is just reward.
The Chiefs have never really endeared themselves to the wider New Zealand public with their chequered history in this competition where they have often been guilty of under-achieving.
But, under their new coaching team and with an injection of fresh talent, their style of play has become impossible to ignore. And impossible not to admire.
It's fair to say they have been the darlings of the championship as far as the country has been concerned this year.
Everyone will take a lot of satisfaction over the way they achieved their title.
This will be seen as redemption for their embarrassment in their only other grand final appearance against the Bulls in Pretoria in 2009. Fittingly, they dished out a similar hiding to the Sharks in Hamilton.
People will also be pleased to see a new name on the trophy and just as importantly they will be delighted to see a side win the title playing a brand of rugby with so much style.
It's ended a four-year drought for New Zealand teams. We had become so used to the Crusaders featuring and winning no matter what other teams produced.
But what we have seen in the last couple of years is the most attractive sides coming through to claim the silverware.
The Reds achieved that with plenty of pizzazz last year and the Chiefs have done it this season.
It will be interesting to see if the Chiefs can build something from here.
The Reds didn't back it up this year and that will be the challenge for the Chiefs now as they join the Crusaders and Blues as Kiwi names on the silverware.
Do they have it in them to build a dynasty?
Losing key players to offshore contracts will make it difficult. Burly prop Sona Taumalolo and Sonny Bill Williams are going and there's talk big loosie Kane Thompson may be off too. They have played huge roles this year and will be hard to replace.
It was fitting that Williams should score the last try of the match and his victory jump into the crowd could only be seen as a sign of how much he has enjoyed his final season in New Zealand rugby with the Chiefs.
But I felt Aaron Cruden was the real key again. Have we finally found the next Dan Carter?
That's a tricky one because these two offer different strengths. But Cruden has matured and really become his own man this season, navigating the Chiefs to the title.
Cruden has worked hard to overcome the shortcomings that hindered his genius in previous seasons. He has dominated at this level to be the best No 10 in the competition. His maturing has been great for him, crucial for the Chiefs and I'm sure also very comforting for the All Blacks.
The Chiefs' success also continues the new feel to the New Zealand game that we have seen as we build on the World Cup success. There's a new man in charge of the All Blacks and the national selectors have brought a bit of a new broom to their team.
Now the Chiefs provide more of that fresh approach.
It's hard not to feel a little sorry for the Sharks. They were arguably the form team over the final month or so. Unfortunately they paid the price for their sloppy start to the season. They put themselves into a position of catch-up that left them vulnerable to the quirks of the draw in the playoffs. And they copped a hiding on that front with all their travel.
After incredible victories over the Reds in Brisbane and the Stormers in Cape Town, this was a bridge too far for John Plumtree's team.
But the coach and his players should draw satisfaction from their work.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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