Te Awamutu Courier
Big Brodie has giant impact on his return
Chiefs put on show in first season match
When the Chiefs hosted the Highlanders in Wakatipu on Saturday, you’d have been forgiven for forgetting it was Brodie Retallick’s first game for the franchise since 2019.
When the workhorse lock last played for the Chiefs, Covid-19 had not been heard of. Now, it’s forced his team to play their first home game of the season in the deep south.
While he skipped the last two Super Rugby seasons in favour of a sabbatical in Japan, Retallick looked like he hadn’t missed a beat for the Chiefs, leading the way in a physical 26-16 win.
In 66 minutes, he was as influential as you’d expect, while he also posted an early contender for try assist of the year with a backdoor flick pass as he was going to ground to set up fullback Emoni Narawa.
In the first game of the season in which several All Blacks were either having their minutes limited or starting on the bench, it was some of the supporting cast who shone for the Chiefs — halfback Xavier Roe and No 8 Pita Gus Sowakula in particular.
In a starting role, Roe impressed both in open play and at the set piece. He delivered nicely from the base of the ruck while his kicking was sharp.
At scrum time, he instructed the pack nicely which often saw Sowakula come off the back with the ball and use Roe as first receiver.
With Josh Ioane at No 10, the Chiefs halves managed the game superbly.
It was this system that set up the team’s first try, as Roe sold a dummy to sneak through a gap, before finding midfielder Alex Nankivell inside. He worked the ball quickly to Sam Cane, who scored between the posts.
It was a tough opening 20 minutes for the Highlanders, on the other hand. The Chiefs dominated the early possession — not helped by left wing Mosese Dawai turning the ball over with both of his early touches.
The Highlanders did well to smother the Chiefs attack for the most part, but were unable to make things count when they got the ball in their hands, with tries to Cane and Sowakula in the first half seeing the Chiefs take a deserved 18-6 lead at the break.
It wasn’t until late in the second half that the Highlanders were able to crack the Chiefs’ line — through prop Daniel Lienert-Brown — but at that point the clock was against them as they still trailed 23-16.
A late penalty from the boot of Bryn Gatland stretched that lead out, seeing the Chiefs home with a comfortable 10-point win.
Chiefs 26 (Sam Cane, Pita Gus Sowakula, Emoni Narawa tries; Josh Ioane con, 2 pens, Bryn Gatland pen) Highlanders 16 (Daniel LienertBrown try; Mitch Hunt con, 3 pens) HT: 18-6