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Unlikely lads follow script to a victorious finale


Liam Napier

Chiefs 37 Sharks 6

Star turn ... Sonny Bill Williams of the Chiefs breaks the tackle of Lwazi Mvovo of the Sharks.

Star turn ... Sonny Bill Williams of the Chiefs breaks the tackle of Lwazi Mvovo of the Sharks. Photo: Getty Images

LET the dreaded cowbells ring long and loud throughout the country; may the Waikato Draught flow for days.

New Zealand has a new Super Rugby champion team, from a third region and its first for four years. The Chiefs have broken the drought. And there have been none more deserving than this bunch of unlikely, largely unheralded, driven men.

Aaron Cruden of the Chiefs leads the Haka.

Aaron Cruden of the Chiefs leads the Haka. Photo: Getty Images

It started with Dave Rennie's vision and a radical cleanout. Thirteen new faces arrived for a clean slate. And with the most complete coaching quartet, the Chiefs formed a brotherhood to mould a masterpiece that was completed last night in Hamilton with an emphatic 37-6 victory shut-out of the heavily jet-lagged Sharks.

Celebrations will spread from Counties Manukau to the Bay of Plenty and down to Taupo. The Chiefs first title is one very few envisioned them earning this season. All the more reason for a party.

What a transformation it has been. From 10th last year – a season of just six wins and 10 losses – the perennial underachievers have become New Zealand's most consistent side, recording a franchise record nine-match unbeaten run.

Credit must go first to Rennie. So often in sport, players are lavished with accolades and coaches cop the flack. The former teacher and publican formed a team of challenging rugby minds that complemented his skills to perfection. Even without injured All Black Richard Kahui, Rennie's back line was superb.

Wayne Smith masterminded the brick-wall defensive structures. The professor's overwhelming experience helped implement a calm finals attitude after two stumbles to end the regular season.

The underrated Tom Coventry hand-picked his forward pack based on work ethic and hunger. And, boy, did that pay dividends. Who knew Ben Tameifuna or Brodie Retallick before this season? The Chiefs tight-five were a revelation. For that, Coventry must take a bow.

Andrew Strawbridge's skills focus completed the four-pronged clipboard success.

The Sharks can't go without a mention. While they were totally outplayed from start to finish last night that, to a degree, was expected.

The competition format did them over. Travelling from Durban to Brisbane to Cape Town to Sydney to Hamilton was madness. No team could hope to overcome that exhausting schedule. Having knocked over the best Australia and South Africa had thrown at them, New Zealand was one hurdle too much.

Every one of the Chiefs were on the same page in last night's finale. As he has done all season, Aaron Cruden led from the front with a masterclass kicking display – and Robbie Robinson's contribution wasn't far behind.

In the wet, greasy conditions, the Chiefs used the dual attacking boots of Robinson and Cruden to pepper the Sharks back three.

Tim Nanai-Williams, Kane Thompson, Lelia Masaga and, of course, Sonny Bill Williams, sealed the result with memorable tries.

If anything summed up the Chiefs' attitude, it was SBW's crowd-surfing hug at the finish. He might be leaving these shores for the Japanese yen and a return to the NRL, but this triumph is one he will never forget.

Chiefs 37 (Tim Nanai-Williams, Kane Thompson, Lelia Masaga, Sonny Bill Williams tries; Aaron Cruden 4 conversions, 3 penalty goals) Sharks 6 (Frederic Michalak 2 penalty goals). Halftime: 13-3 Chiefs.


HuffPost Australia

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
SAM 25vs USA 16 Report Stats
WAL 54vs URU 9 Report Stats
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 26vs ARG 16 Report Stats
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 45vs JPN 10 Report Stats
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 28vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 38vs ROM 11 Report Stats
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 58vs NAM 14 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 54vs GEO 9 Report Stats
ITA 23vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 46vs SAM 6 Report Stats
ENG 25vs WAL 28 Report Stats
AUS 65vs URU 3 Report Stats
SCO 39vs USA 16 Report Stats
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 35vs NAM 21 Report Stats
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 23vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 41vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 43vs GEO 10 Report Stats
SAM 5vs JPN 26 Report Stats
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 34vs SCO 16 Report Stats
ENG 13vs AUS 33 Report Stats
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 45vs TGA 16 Report Stats
IRE 16vs ITA 9 Report Stats
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45Leicester City Stadium
FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
NAM 0vs GEO 0 06:00Sand
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 0vs TGA 0 06:00St James' Park
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 0vs SCO 0 00:30St James' Park
AUS 0vs WAL 0 02:45Twic
ENG 0vs URU 0 06:00Manch
ARG 0vs NAM 0 22:00Leicester City Stadium
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinB 0vs RUpA 0 02:00Twic
WinC 0vs RUpD 0 06:00MilS
WinD 0vs RUpC 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinA 0vs RUpB 0 02:00Twic
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 3 3 0 0 97 13
Wales 3 3 0 0 58 13
England 3 1 2 0 1 6
Fiji 3 0 3 0 -49 0
Uruguay 2 0 2 0 -107 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
South Africa 3 2 1 0 56 11
Scotland 3 2 1 0 40 10
Japan 3 2 1 0 -12 8
Samoa 3 1 2 0 -52 4
USA 2 0 2 0 -32 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 3 3 0 0 87 14
Argentina 3 2 1 0 64 10
Tonga 3 1 2 0 -22 6
Georgia 3 1 2 0 -71 4
Namibia 2 0 2 0 -58 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Ireland 3 3 0 0 84 14
France 3 3 0 0 72 14
Italy 3 1 2 0 -24 5
Canada 3 0 3 0 -71 1
Romania 2 0 2 0 -61 0
View all

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