Chiefs sink Sharks to claim Super 15 crown
Top New Zealand side the Waikato Chiefs capped an exceptional year to be crowned the 2012 Super 15 champions Saturday when they beat the Coastal Sharks 37-6 in a one-sided final.
The Chiefs were more clinical and made fewer errors than the Sharks on a wet Hamilton night, running up a 13-3 lead by half-time and outscoring the South Africans four tries to nil.
They become only the sixth different side to win the crown in the 17-year history of the tough championship which features the best from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, the three top-ranked nations in the world.
The Chiefs, with only a handful of experienced players in their squad, were largely written off at the start of the season but proved the pundits wrong by winning the New Zealand conference and finishing second on the table.
They started the final the fresher side, having had the luxury of being at home the past three weeks while the Sharks had an arduous travel schedule, and it showed as they ran away with the game.
The Sharks did enjoy the better of the opening exchanges after a JP Pietersen kick drilled the Chiefs into the corner and Ryan Kankowski stole the lineout.
But Chiefs captain Craig Clarke said his side’s confidence grew as they worked their way into the game.
“We managed to disrupt them a bit in the air and put them on the ground so they couldn’t drive. The second half showed our trademark line speed and the boys were getting up in their face,” he said.
“We’ve got a heap of pride in our defence and we talked about not letting them over and keeping to no tries.” Sharks captain Keegan Daniel regretted his side did not score points when they dominated early in the game.
“That’s what finals rugby is about. You get such a little amount of opportunity to score points and you should capitalise and when we dominated the game early on we didn’t put that into points,” he said.
“No excuses. The chiefs were outstanding tonight. They really suffocated us.” The Sharks only reward for their early domination was a sole penalty by Frederic Michalak before the Chiefs began to work their way into the game with superior forward power and more accurate kicking.
A 10-minute period of relentlessly testing the Sharks’ defence ended when the Chiefs recovered an Aaron Cruden chip kick and a Sonny Bill Williams’ break led to Tim Nanai-Williams scoring wide out.
Cruden landed the conversion and two penalties after the du Plessis brothers Jannie and Bismarck both infringed to have the Chiefs ahead 13-3 at half-time.
Chiefs hooker and Samoan international Mahonri Schwalger put his side in command at the start of the second half when he stole the kick off from the Sharks forwards.
From an attacking scrum, backrower Kane Thompson was able to pick up the ball and run through a huge gap to score the Chiefs’ second try.
Replacement wing Lelia Masaga put the match firmly in the Chiefs’ grasp with 20 minutes remaining when he snapped up a misdirected Daniel pass and raced 50 metres to the line, stepping deftly around Patrick Lambie on the way.
Cruden landed the conversion and a further penalty before Sonny Bill Williams, in his final match for the Chiefs, capped off the scoring with a try in the closing minutes which he followed with a celebratory dive into the crowd.
Other winners of the Super championship are the Canterbury Crusaders (seven titles), Northern Bulls (three), Auckland Blues (three), ACT Brumbies (two), and Queensland Reds (one).
Chiefs — Tries: Tim Nanai-Williams, Kane Thompson, Lelia Masaga, Sonny Bill Williams; Conversions: Aaron Cruden (4); Penalties: Cruden (3).
Sharks — Penalties: Frederic Michalak (2).