March 24, 2019 / 6:23 AM / a month ago

Rugby-Cooper relieved as rampant Chiefs end winless run at Bulls

PRETORIA, March 24 (Reuters) - Waikato Chiefs’ emphatic 56-20 Super Rugby victory over the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday left head coach Colin Cooper relieved as the New Zealand-based outfit finally broke their winless run this season.

The seven-try blitz was a first win in six games for the two-time champions since the start of the campaign and also a first in Pretoria since 2001.

“We haven’t been playing well, so this is a great effort by the team,” Cooper told reporters. “The expectation of the Chiefs back home is that we should be winning every game and we haven’t had a win before this.

“When the team puts it together like they did here, it explains why those expectations are so high.”

Captain Brodie Retallick, Solomon Alaimalo and Alex Nankivell each scored two tries, to go with one from Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.

Cooper said the territory they were able to claim and the tempo of their game played a big part in the win.

“They played so well, led by Brodie things just stuck,” he said. “We got the offloads away, we sped the game up. We have had a lot of changes (this season) with injuries and we lost a lot of experience from last year, so it takes time.

“Super Rugby is a pretty unforgiving stage. We had struggled to keep the ball (in previous games), to defend well. Putting it together here was great.”

The Chiefs were driven forward by the excellent Damian McKenzie, who revelled in a return to the fullback position having been asked to play number 10 in recent weeks.

Cooper said the push to play McKenzie at flyhalf was more out of necessity than desire, but did not rule out a return to that position in the future.

“We didn’t have (flyhalves) Marty McKenzie and Jack Debreczeni, so we did not have the opportunity to play our other two 10s (previously),” Cooper said.

“Damian can cover, he plays both, and we will use him where we think fits with us. He could be moved back to 10.

Before the match the players of the Bulls and Chiefs formed a circle together on the pitch to observe a moment of silence for the victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings in which 50 people lost their lives on March 15.

“That’s the power of sport, uniting and standing together, like the Bulls and our team did before the game,” Cooper said.

“After that tragic event, sport has a part to play and can unite people and nations. It was very moving to see the teams acknowledging the disaster at home.” (Reporting By Nick Said; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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