MELBOURNE – The Chiefs stormed into their eighth straight Super Rugby playoffs on Friday with a thumping win over the Melbourne Rebels.
Spearheaded by All Black Brodie Retallick, the Chiefs needed a bonus-point victory to book their place in the last eight and delivered emphatically, running in nine tries in a 59-8 hammering.
It guarantees them at least an eighth-place finish, which would mean a quarter-final away to the dominant Crusaders, but they could potentially move higher.
The Rebels have now leaked a massive 125 points in their last two outings, after a 66-0 rout by the Crusaders last week to end their season on a demoralising note.
The Chiefs bounced back from a poor start to the season to find form over the past month, with three wins in four matches to set them up for Friday’s do-or-die clash in Melbourne.
“We’re lucky enough to slip into the playoffs, which we’re pretty excited about,” said skipper Sam Cane.
“It’s a great feeling, especially as there were times during the season when we were unsure whether things would pan out.”
On a slippery surface, the Rebels suffered an early blow, with Wallabies wing Marika Koroibete taking a knock to an elbow and playing no further part.
After he departed, the Chiefs put the first points on the board with a superb 80-metre counter-attack finished by Cane.
They got a second when Quade Cooper’s attempted grubber kick was charged down by Shaun Stevenson, who took a favourable bounce to run to the line.
A poor pass by Reece Hodge after the halftime hooter handed the Chiefs their third, with Lachlan Boshier making the most of the error to send them into the break ahead 21-3.
The second-stanza was electric from the Chiefs, who scored four tries – Sean Wainui, Anton Lienert-Brown, a second to Stevenson and Jack Debreczeni – in an opening 16-minute blitz.
Matt Philip pulled a try back, but further five-pointers to Marty McKenzie and Stevenson compounded their misery. Debreczeni kicked six conversions.AFP