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Unlikely lads follow script to a victorious finale

Date

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.

 

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 0vs FJI 0 05:00Twic
TGA 0vs GEO 0 21:00Kholm
IRE 0vs CAN 0 23:30MilS
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs JPN 0 01:45Brig
FRA 0vs ITA 0 05:00Twic
SAM 0vs USA 0 21:00Brig
WAL 0vs URU 0 23:30MilS
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs ARG 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 0vs JPN 0 23:30Kholm
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs ROM 0 05:00Olym
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs NAM 0 05:00Olym
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 0vs GEO 0 01:45Kholm
ITA 0vs CAN 0 23:30Ella
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SAM 0 01:45Villa
ENG 0vs WAL 0 05:00Twic
AUS 0vs URU 0 21:00Villa
SCO 0vs USA 0 23:30Ella
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 0vs ROM 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 0vs NAM 0 01:45Sand
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs CAN 0 05:00stadium:mk
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs GEO 0 05:00MilS
SAM 0vs JPN 0 23:30stadium:mk
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SCO 0 01:45St James' Park
ENG 0vs AUS 0 06:00Twic
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 0vs TGA 0 00:30KPS
IRE 0vs ITA 0 02:45Olym
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45KPS
FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45Olym
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 22:00KPS
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 07:00Olym
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
France 0 0 0 0 0 0
New Zealand 0 0 0 0 0 0
Canada 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tonga 0 0 0 0 0 0
Japan 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Romania 0 0 0 0 0 0
Argentina 0 0 0 0 0 0
England 0 0 0 0 0 0
Georgia 0 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 0 0 0 0 0 0
USA 0 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Fiji 0 0 0 0 0 0
Samoa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Namibia 0 0 0 0 0 0
South Africa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
 

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