McKenzie inspires Chiefs to key win

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Lynn McConnell     07 Jul 2018     Getty Images

Going into the game with a slight hope of making the playoffs, the Brumbies had their prospects undone by a Chiefs team, and McKenzie especially, who are looking more of a threat in their own right. Only their second half penchant for conceding penalties could yet harm them.


That failure breathed life back into the Brumbies who had a late chance to steal an unlikely win.

McKenzie's touch with ball in hand was as usual for its dynamic quality, although that did not diminish its effectiveness, but it was in his additional tackling and breakdown work that he extended his influence.

Second five-eighths Charlie Ngatai lent a physical edge, uncompromisingly taking the ball to the Brumbies defensive line and pulling off a crucial tackle in the Brumbies' late game assault.

Unleashing their attacking bent, even from their own goalline, the Chiefs ran the Brumbies' defence ragged at crucial moments earlier in the game.

It was a situation not helped by the Brumbies' inability to lose control of the ball at vital stages of the first half. The most classic example was just before halftime when lock Rory Arnold looked for all money to have scored only to lose the ball on the line and the Chiefs ran the ball out from their line beyond the 22m courtesy of strong running by Ngatai.

That determination did come at a cost for the Chiefs with captain Sam Cane forced off with a head injury suffered in making the tackle.

That reflected the determination of the Chiefs' defence that was evident throughout the first half and it wasn't as if Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani was an easy man to stop but even he found it hard to penetrate.

Earlier, when hooker Nathan Harris opened the try scoring in the 23rd minute it was on the end of fine preparatory work done by McKenzie, Ngatai and lock Tyler Ardron and saw him split two tacklers flanker Tom Cusack, who also suffered a head injury, and Arnold after they clashed heads.

The only things injured after the Chiefs' second try, scored in the 30th minute, were Brumbies' hearts. The move started in the Chiefs 22m but with key contributions by No.8 Liam Messam in securing turned over ball, and then good work by Cane, McKenzie, whose behind-the-back pass to halfback Brad Weber was sensational, provided key momentum.

McKenzie stayed in touch and off the ruck turned on his pace to slip between forwards to out-run them for a fine try.

Luck finally turned for the Brumbies in the 54th minute after Kuridrani, Pocock and No.8 Isi Naisarani all attempted to bullock their way over the line before the ball was moved to the short side with quick touches giving wing Henry Speight a chance to dive in at the corner to score.

A Brumbies breakout almost from the restart featured a strong run by Pocock who fed Andrew Muirhead into space along the left touch only to be mowed down by Weber and replacement Marty McKenzie.

The Brumbies won a penalty and opted for a scrum but in attempting to move the ball a long pass was intercepted, by who else, Damian McKenzie who had moved to the wing. He didn't have the legs to get to the other end but the Chiefs retained the ball and Marty McKenzie chipped a kick towards the in-goal. It bounced off the goalposts and replacement midfielder Johnny Faauli took the ball one-handed to score.

But if the Chiefs thought they were home the Brumbies had other ideas, especially when replacement flanker Jesse Parete was sin-binned, and when fullback Tom Banks scored in the 70th minute it set the game up for a desperate finale. The desperation was with the Brumbies and when a home penalty provided a chance for a lineout play, it was Speight who opened up space to through and get the Brumbies within five points and seven minutes to play.

McKenzie, in probably his only flaw of the night missed a penalty goal chance that would have knocked the Brumbies out, but they took a 22m tap out and ground their way downfield ending up with a controversial call for a knock-on on a hairline call for the Chiefs to win the scrum and kick the ball out for the win.

Scorers: Chiefs 24 (Nathan Harris, Damian McKenzie, Johnny Faauli tries; McKenzie 3 con, pen) Brumbies 19 (Henry Speight 2, Tom Banks tries; Wharenui Hawera 2 con). HT: 17-0