WELLINGTON - The Waikato Chiefs handed the Wellington Hurricanes the first defeat of their Super Rugby title defence with a 28-16 victory in a sometimes tempestuous tussle played out in a Hamilton rainstorm on Friday.
Tries from lock Brodie Retallick and winger Toni Pulu in the first half as well as 16 points from the faultless boot of fullback Damian McKenzie kept intact the 100 percent record of the twice former champions after three matches.
The Hurricanes had scored in 24 tries and 154 points in their first two outings of the campaign but were unable to reproduce their high-intensity attack in such poor conditions against New Zealand opposition.
Back-to-back yellow cards for flanker Ardie Savea and lock Michael Fatialofa in the first half did not help their cause and second half tries from scrumhalf TJ Perenara and winger Julian Savea were insufficient for a comeback win.
Savea’s try came in the 79th minute with Chiefs number eight Michael Leitch in the sin-bin but the visitors were penalised as they tried to win the ball back after a turnover and McKenzie’s fourth penalty deprived them of a losing bonus point.
The heavy rain sweeping across the Waikato Stadium at kickoff was always going to make holding onto the ball for prolonged periods a decisive factor and the Chiefs managed it better in the first half.
Retallick wrestled his way over the try line in the 22nd minute after a five-metre scrum and Pulu outpaced two Hurricanes defenders to get to scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow’s chip through to give the hosts a 17-6 halftime lead.
McKenzie extended the advantage from the kicking tee before Perenara burrowed over for a try in the 64th minute, Hurricanes flyhalf Beauden Barrett nailing the conversion to make it 20-11.
Four minutes later, Barrett’s brother Jordie, on as a backline replacement, passed the ball behind his team mates and into touch when he appeared to have the line at his mercy.
McKenzie added his fourth penalty with five minutes to go before Leitch was shown a yellow card for a high tackle to set up the late drama.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by John O'Brien