The Chiefs' Damian McKenzie has made a strong return to rugby. Picture Marcello Endelli, EPA
The Chiefs' Damian McKenzie has made a strong return to rugby. Picture Marcello Endelli, EPA

Chiefs beat Sunwolves in Super Rugby after McKenzie masterclass

Time of article published Feb 15, 2020

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WELLINGTON - All Blacks playmaker Damian McKenzie had a major role as the Hamilton-based Chiefs continued their unbeaten start to the season Saturday with a 43-17 win over the Sunwolves in Tokyo.

McKenzie missed last year's World Cup and most of the 2019 season with a knee injury, but has made a strong return over the last two weeks after sitting out the opening round. Saturday's away win was important to the Chiefs because the Sunwolves, having already beaten the Melbourne Rebels, are likely to trip up a number of teams at home this season.

To prove that, the Sunwolves scored first Saturday with a try to flyhalf Garth April after strong running from former England center Ben Te'o. McKenzie featured as the Chiefs struck back with tries on both flanks, using the width of the field to score through wingers Solomon Alaimalo and Shaun Stevenson.

The Sunwolves missed a vital chance to score in the 17th minute when McKenzie chopped down Jarred Adams inches from the line as the prop died with the ball and two unmarked players outside him.

McKenzie then made a second try for Alaimalo which gave the Chiefs a 24-7 lead. The Sunwolves had to score next and did so when Georgia hooker Jaba Bregvadze wrestled the ball over the line from a maul just before halftime.

The Chiefs made the game safe when flanker Lachlan Boshier scored within three minutes of the restart, pouncing on a Sunwolves turnover. The last hope of a Sunwolves rally was snuffed out by a try-saving tackle by Chiefs scrumhalf Brad Weber on Sunwolves center Shogo Nakano, though Nakano did score — too late — in the 73rd minute.

The Chiefs punished a tiring Sunwolves team with late tries to Quinn Tupaea and Kaleb Trask.

"I don't think we took our opportunities when they came today and we switched off at important moments," Chiefs captain Jake Schatz said. "Against the Chiefs you can't afford to give up the turnovers we did in phase play."


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