Hooker Rhys Marshall backs Chiefs to step up

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 05:00 14/04/2014

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Look for the Chiefs to step up in the next few weeks as they bid to consolidate their New Zealand Conference lead in Super Rugby, which so far has been built on incomplete performances.

Young hooker Rhys Marshall backs the defending champions to fire in the face of tough challenges against the Crusaders and Brumbies over the next two weeks.

Seasoned flanker Tanerau Latimer agrees there is plenty more to come from this Chiefs team, but says it is going to take a lot of hard work to bring it to fruition.

The Chiefs are five games into their longest stretch of matches without a bye (nine) since Super Rugby expanded to 15 teams and went to the conference format.

Left to come before their second bye are the Crusaders (home), Brumbies (away), Lions (home) and Blues (home in New Plymouth).

They have also been plagued by a continuing run of injuries but are due to get some players back over the next few weeks.

On Saturday night the Chiefs broke their three-game winless run by downing the Melbourne Rebels 22-16, but after impressively building a 19-0 lead in the first 24 minutes for the good start they had been missing for weeks, they seemed to hit the wall.

Back came the Rebels, who trailed 19-6 at halftime but then won the second half 13-3 and threatened to steal the game from the more highly placed hosts who had fallen completely flat. It ended one try apiece with Gareth Anscombe's accurate boot the key with five penalty goals.

Was it the tough travel back from South Africa after three weeks on tour that took it's toll? Not at all, according to Marshall, and only possibly, according to head coach Dave Rennie who said it was more about not hanging on to the ball to build phases, cohesion and therefore pressure.

"No, they've managed us well and we were getting off the line and feeling pretty connected on that D line and just needed to keep things basic, keep things simple and keep going forward," Marshall said in exploding the travel weary theory.

"That's when we play our best footy, when we're talking, we're loud and a bit on edge - we just need to keep that buzz there and we just let it slip a little bit and we made it hard on ourselves."

In the last four games they have only one win to show for their efforts, the Chiefs fortunate they have had the fight in them to scramble consolation points, getting 11 from those four matches to stay five points clear at the top of the conference with all the Kiwi sides now having all played seven games.

"I think the boys are a bit pissed off we didn't kick on in that second spell tonight [Saturday] but we went out there with an idea, put it to work and in the first 15 [minutes] it paid dividends.

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"We know we're fit enough to match any team. We matched the Bulls at Loftus and we've got to get that into our minds and really step forward into next week with confidence but it's going to be a big old derby."

Latimer said the Chiefs had had problems since they went on tour in putting their game together and were going to have to work "bloody hard" to find it again.

"[Last year] was the same, we'd gone through a grey patch and came right towards the end of the season and the same in 2012," Latimer said.

"We've just got to find it, that's all."

Rennie said you only had to go back a week and look at the second half performance against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein when the Chiefs came from 34-10 down at halftime to draw 43-43 to see how close they were to putting it together for a full game.

"It's about getting that balance right," said Rennie. "We did it pretty well for that first 20 today and we did it well in the last 40 last week so to do it for 70-80 would be nice."

- Waikato Times

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