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Chiefs' mana provides winning resilience

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Lynn McConnell     03 Mar 2018     Getty Images

If there is any side in recent years who have made light of their injury frustrations it has been the Chiefs, but this year the demands have been greater given the experienced players who have been missing.

But Cooper found the resolve evident during Dave Rennie's coaching tenure has continued into his, and Friday's win had been outstanding for the group, not only for the immediate result but also for extending their hold over the Blues to 13 games without loss.

Cooper said the longer term view was taken when fullback Shaun Stevenson got a poke in the eye during the warm-up. His vision didn't clear so it was decided not to take the risk with such a long campaign ahead.

With Brodie Retallick's late withdrawal due to a training injury on Thursday there was an issue among their locking resources and some pre-planning would be needed to cope.

They had been lucky to get a dispensation to bring a 24th player to Auckland as he was brought into the 23 after Stevenson's injury.

A rearrangement was required with intended first five-eighths Damian McKenzie going to fullback and Tiaan Falcon starting at five-eighths.

Cooper said the immediate message before the side ran onto the field was to tell Falcon they had a lot of faith in him and that was why he was there and why the change had been made.

Any other option would have meant too many changes.

"So again it was just backing the kid and again I think in the competition there's a kid who's going to put his hand up and I thought he had an excellent game for being such a young man.

"But I was just proud of the effort. Against the Crusaders we weren't smart enough and we weren't good enough against them, but we really toughed it out tonight and that's what made me proud," he said.

The winning of the game occurred with two tries in three minutes around the 10-minute point of the second half. They had come out after the break determined to use the wind to make their exits and then bring their line up because they knew the Blues would run the ball.

"We didn't think they would kick into that wind, it was just heart, line defence, connections in our line and making the big tackles," he said.

Captain and flanker Sam Cane continued his impressive outing against the Crusaders and Cooper said he was an influential, follow-me type of leader who was humble and when he talked the players followed him.

He also said Mitchell Brown's enforced move to lock in Retallick's absence was something he had done for the side last year and for Cooper in Taranaki. He had a big heart.

Solomon Alaimalo was another who stood up by building on the play he had last year with the Chiefs and with Northland in the Mitre 10 Cup.

Although the side's resources were well down due to injury, his message to those younger players coming in was to get excited with their opportunity rather than having to sit behind some of the All Blacks.

"Here is an opportunity, put your hand up. We talk a lot about Chiefs' mana and I felt there was a lot of that out there with the group," he said.