Win ‘ugly and gutsy’ but did the job

Matamata Chronicle - - Sport - By EVAN PEG­DEN

Ugly and gutsy. Liam Mes­sam reck­ons that summed up not only the Chiefs’ Su­per Rugby fi­nal vic­tory on Satur­day night but their whole sea­son.

The Chiefs’ co-skip­per and win­ner of the grand fi­nal Man of the Match Medal said team spirit, grit and de­ter­mi­na­tion were what got the Chiefs through a dif­fi­cult year to achieve their goal of back-to-back tro­phies.

The Chiefs scored two tries (in the fi­nal quar­ter) to one in­ter­cept try in their 27-22 vic­tory over the Can­berra-based Brumbies at Waikato Sta­dium to seal their sec­ond ti­tle in as many sea­sons un­der Dave Ren­nie and his coach­ing team.

It com­pleted a record 28-win, eight-loss twoyear pe­riod – two bet­ter than the pre­vi­ous record set by the Reds and Storm­ers in 2011-12.

On pa­per the two sea­sons look very sim­i­lar for the Chiefs with both pro­duc­ing 12-4 round-robin records fol­lowed by semi­fi­nal and fi­nal vic­to­ries, but even though the Chiefs this year col­lected a cou­ple of ex­tra bonus points and fin­ished top of the ta­ble com­pared to sec­ond last year they never re­ally com­pletely hit their straps in game all sea­son.

‘‘I think it was a lit­tle bit harder [this year],’’ Mes­sam said.

‘‘We prob­a­bly didn’t win the way maybe fans and other peo­ple wanted us to win.

‘‘Most of our wins were ugly and gutsy and even tonight was an ugly and gutsy win but we still came away with the W and we would have learnt a lot from this game and this sea­son.

‘‘We’ve got a young group of men and hope­fully we can con­tinue that suc­cess for the next few years.’’

Mes­sam also be­lieves the ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing this sea­son with the added pres­sure of be­ing cur­rent cham­pi­ons would stand the Chiefs in good stead for hav­ing to do the same next year.

‘‘I think the key for us now if for all the boys who go into ITM Cup is to keep play­ing like Chiefs, keep that stan­dard that they have and use those ex­pe­ri­ences in their [provin­cial] teams and then come back to­gether in Novem­ber/De­cem­ber and go from there,’’ he said.

Just like last year much was made of the dis­ad­van­tage for the trav­el­ling team in hav­ing to fly from other coun­tries and there was plenty of as­sump­tion that the Brumbies just ran out of steam in the fi­nal quar­ter be­cause of their trip to South Africa for the semi­fi­nal against the Bulls in Pre­to­ria and their re­turn home to Aus­tralia be­fore cross­ing the Tas­man Sea to get to Hamil­ton late last week. Such travel will al­ways be a fac­tor. Waikato statis­ti­cian Ge­off Miller worked out that be­fore the lat­est game the aver­age win­ning mar­gin for fi­nals in­volv­ing teams trav­el­ling to or from South Africa for a fi­nal was 26.8 points, for trav­el­ling be­tween New Zealand and Aus­tralia it was 10.3 points and for fi­nal­ists both re­main­ing within the same coun­try it was just 5.3 points.

But teams are smart now in how they han­dle travel be­tween the three San­zar coun­tries in­volved in Su­per Rugby and Chiefs head coach Dave Ren­nie and Brumbies men­tor Jake White both played down the travel fac­tor on Satur­day night. In some ways the real ad­van­tage is in the parochial home crowd sup­port.

‘‘We talked in our group that if we had to travel from Africa back home we’d back our­selves to put in a big 80 min­utes, know­ing that you’ve got guys who can come off the bench and give you fresh legs,’’ Ren­nie said.

He be­lieved the Chiefs’ sec­ond-half tac­ti­cal ad­just­ment is what got them home, buoyed by huge spirit.

‘‘I think the key was we needed to hang onto a bit of pill for a while and ap­ply a bit of pres­sure and what we did for a while was keep mov­ing the ball to where they had num­bers when there was space be­hind the wingers and in front of the full­back.

‘‘We didn’t com­mu­ni­cate that well enough so the in­ter­cept – we were talk­ing about it in the coaches’ box – was al­ways go­ing to come be­cause we put our­selves un­der a lot of pres­sure there.’’

Does Ren­nie be­lieve back-to-back ti­tles will now start to draw the out­side re­spect the Chiefs de­serve for their suc­cess? ‘‘I don’t even care to be hon­est. ‘‘ It’s more about what hap­pens group. ‘‘We’re re­ally sat­is­fied. ‘‘It’s a tough tour­na­ment and you’ve got to be good and con­sis­tent for long pe­ri­ods and that gave us an op­por­tu­nity to play at home tonight and that prob­a­bly made a dif­fer­ence,’’ he said.

within our

Back to back: The Chiefs per­form a haka fol­low­ing on from their Su­per Rugby fi­nal vic­tory on Satur­day night against the Brumbies.

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