Rugby Union


Chiefs prove a cut above to land first crown

SONNY Bill Williams scored a try in his last game for the Chiefs yesterday as the Waikato side claimed its first Super Rugby title with a 37-6 win over South Africa's Sharks.

The Chiefs were more clinical and made fewer errors than the Sharks on a wet night, running up a 13-3 lead by half-time and outscoring the Durban-based team four tries to nil.

They become only the sixth side to win the crown in the 17-year history of the championship.

The Chiefs 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 encompassing Brisbane, Cape Town and Hamilton, New Zealand.

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,'' he said. ''The second half showed our trademark line speed and the boys were getting up in their face. 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 it dominated early. ''That's what finals rugby is about,'' he said. ''You get such a little amount of opportunity to score and you should capitalise and when we dominated the game early on we didn't put that into points. 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. A 10-minute period of relentlessly testing the Sharks' defence ended when the Chiefs recovered an Aaron Cruden chip kick and a Williams break led to Tim Nanai-Williams scoring wide out.

Williams capped off the scoring with a try in the closing minutes which he followed with a celebratory dive into the crowd.

Sharks coach John Plumtree praised and damned the Chiefs in the same breath and took a potshot at the structure of the play-offs after his team hit a brick wall in the final.

''Whether you can buy another week [of rest] with the format they've got, with internationals coming up now, I doubt. It would have done us a favour if they did.''

He said the hosts boasted ''outstanding tiers of attack'' which his tired side couldn't contain but singled out what he believed was cynical and ''illegal'' play which should have been spotted by referee and fellow New Zealander Steve Walsh.AFP