Cruden stars against lacklustre SharksComment on this story
Aaron Cruden scored 13 points for the Chiefs as they moved back to the top of the Super Rugby table with a narrow 18-12 victory over the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.
The young flyhalf opened the scoring with a try midway through the first half, while Augustine Pulu added a second on the final whistle with the hosts paying for their countless errors throughout the game.
All the Sharks' points came via the boot of Patrick Lambie and even though they picked up a consolation bonus point, they will rue missed chances in their first match at home after a tour of Australasia.
They had all the territorial advantage early on but were kept out by some steely Chiefs defence.
It took 12 minutes for the tourists to mount their first real attack, with Tawera Kerr-Barlow bursting through the middle.
After the ball was off-loaded to Asaeli Tikoirotuma on the left, however, the winger lacked support and eventually knocked on.
That was the start of a dominant period for the visitors and they made it count with a 19th minute opener from Cruden, who ran straight through a gap in defence after good phase play from his teammates.
The Chiefs number 10 comfortably converted, before adding another three points on the half-hour mark when Charl McLeod was caught offside.
The mistakes continued from the hosts, much to the frustration of coach John Plumtree.
But they finally had their first points in the final minute of the opening half when Lambie slotted over a penalty, awarded when Kerr-Barlow was penalised for playing the ball on the ground.
It was 10-3 at the break and straight after the restart the young Sharks flyhalf sent over another three points when Sonny Bill Williams failed to release in the tackle.
The Chiefs forwards were then penalised for collapsing the scrum, giving Lambie another shot at goal which he happily accepted, as the gap was reduced to one point.
However, Keegan Daniel failed to roll away from a ruck quickly enough, allowing the Chiefs another shot at goal that was sent over by Cruden.
The kicking battle continued when Lambie slotted over three more points for the home side, but he then missed a 50-metre penalty that would have put his team in front with 10 minutes remaining.
Both Lambie and Cruden missed penalties in the final 10 minutes, before Pulu sold a dummy and ran along the right touchline to score in the final phase of the game.
Scorers: Sharks: Penalties: Patrick Lambie (4).
Chiefs: Tries: Aaron Cruden, Augustine Pulu. Conversion. Cruden. Penalties: Cruden (2). – Sapa