The Chiefs have moved up to second on the Super Rugby points table with maximum points from a messy 35-24 victory over competition newcomers the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth this morning.
The defending champions were bouncing back from their narrow, two-bonus-point loss to the Stormers six days earlier but they were made to work hard for victory by a Kings side defending furiously and refusing to give in.
It was also a sloppy start and finish to the match by the Chiefs who made a host of handling errors and continued to give up too many penalties, despite a four tries to two advantage.
Star of the show was right winger Lelia Masaga with his hat-trick of tries, while Liam Messam celebrated his 100th game for the Chiefs with a strong 80-minute performance.
But there will be concerns about the leg injury suffered by No 8 Ross Filipo, in his first appearance for the Chiefs, 30 minutes into the match. That forced the Chiefs to revert to the previous week's starting loose trio with Messam moving to the back of the scrum and Sam Cane coming on at flanker.
The Chiefs were their own worst enemies in the first half, doing most of the attacking in the Kings' half but basic handling errors, lack of patience and discipline let them down.
The result was just two tries to Masaga when they could easily have had a bonus point before halftime.
Instead they went to the break leading only 18-13 after 18-year-old winger and sprint star Sergeal Petersen snapped up an intercept from a spilt pass by Masaga with the Chiefs attacking inside the Kings' 22.
The conversion by first-five Demetri Catrakilis, who had earlier matched Gareth Anscombe's two penalty goals, meant just five points separated the two teams as they went in under the stand.
Some credit, however, had to be given to the Kings' defence that was outstanding in the face of a relentless onslaught from a Chiefs team enjoying 58 per cent of both possession and territory.
And the home side were operating under the handicap of losing their captain and lock Darren Nell in the pre-match warm-ups with a torn calf muscle, while Kiwi Hadleigh Parkes was a surprise starter in midfield.
Midway through the half the Kings also lost fullback SP Marais to injury and flanker Wimpie van der Walt to a stint in the blood-bin.
The Chiefs wasted little time in bursting into a 19-point lead early in the second spell as they picked up the intensity and accuracy to produce converted tries to replacement flanker Sam Cane and Masaga, the latter completing his hat-trick of touchdowns for the match and bringing up the bonus point.
But any thoughts that the Chiefs, who were better at lineout time than the previous week and superior in the scrums, would then run away with the game were dashed by replacement halfback August Pulu getting yellow-carded almost as soon as he came on the field for a professional foul near his line and the Kings responding with a try to No 8 Jacques Engelbrecht.
Continuing handling errors and indiscipline plagued the Chiefs as Catrakilis took advantage to close the gap to 32-24 with two penalty goals before Anscombe put the result beyond doubt a couple of minutes from the end with a penalty kick of his own.
Chiefs 35 (Lelia Masaga 3, Sam Cane tries; Gareth Anscombe 3 conversions, 3 penalty goals) Kings 24 (Sergeal Petersen, Jacques Engelbrecht tries; Demetri Catrakilis conversion, 4 penalty goals). Halftime 18-13 Chiefs.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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