Super Rugby sweep by New Zealand teams on Saturday
WELLINGTON – All Blacks playmaker Damian McKenzie had a major role as the Hamilton-based Chiefs continued their unbeaten start to the season with a 43-17 victory over the Sunwolves in Tokyo among three wins by New Zealand sides Saturday.
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."
Later, the Durban-based Sharks lost their unbeaten record when they went down 38-22 to the Hurricanes in Wellington in a match of spectacular long-range tries.
The Sharks set the ball rolling in the 13th minute with an 80-meter intercept try involving captain Lukhanyo Am and winger Madosh Tambwe.
After Wes Goosen scored for the Hurricanes and Tyler Paul for the Sharks All Blacks center Ngani Laumapi scored a superb try for the Hurricanes from a cross-kick by Jordie Barrett.
Winger Ben Lam struck twice from distance to give the Hurricanes a 29-17 lead after 51 minutes and All Blacks hooker Dane Coles, who came off the bench for his first appearance of the season, scored from a lineout drive to put the home team ahead 38-17.
A late try to replacement Mzamo Majola wasn't enough to bridge the gap and the Sharks and Hurricanes now share 2-1 records after three rounds.
I n a later match in Canberra, the New Zealand-based Highlanders scored a converted try in the 84th minute to claim a 23-22 win over the ACT Brumbies.
It ended the Brumbies' 11-game winning streak at home, while the Highlanders made it five straight victories against the Australian team.
ACT hooker Folau Faingaa scored a hat-trick of rolling maul tries but it wasn't enough as the hosts failed to take advantage of a yellow card in the second half. Highlanders winger Patelesio Tomkinson was lucky to avoid being sent off after making no attempt to wrap his arms as his shoulder made contact with Tom Banks' head in a tackle.
Referee and former Super Rugby player Nic Berry deemed the initial contact shoulder to shoulder and only opted for the sinbin in the 45th minute.
The Highlanders hung tough before Teariki Ben-Nicholas crashed over next to the posts after the siren before Josh Ioane slotted the match-sealing conversion.