The Chiefs routed the Sharks 37-6 to win their first Super Rugby title and give New Zealand its 11th championship in the 17 editions of the southern hemisphere’s elite provincial competition.
Tim Nanai-Williams, Kane Thompson, Lelia Masaga and Sonny Bill Williams scored tries for the Chiefs last night at Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium. Fly-half Aaron Cruden kicked four conversions and three penalties for 17 points to finish with a competition-leading 251 points.
The Chiefs, who lost the 2009 final, become the third New Zealand champion after record seven-time winner Crusaders and the Blues, who have three titles. The Chiefs beat the Crusaders 20-17 in the semifinals.
“It’s a little bit surreal,” Chiefs captain Craig Clarke said in a televised interview. “We were a little bit slow out of the blocks after a tough game last week. We got into our work and found our feet.”
Australia’s ACT Brumbies and Queensland Reds, and South Africa’s Bulls, are the only other teams to win the title.
The Durban-based Sharks, who qualified for the playoffs as the sixth-placed team and upset the defending champion Reds and top-ranked Stormers on the road to the final, fell to their fourth loss in the championship game after failing to score a try against the Chiefs for the fourth straight match. Fly-half Frederic Michalak booted the Sharks’ only points.
“The Chiefs were outstanding, they really suffocated us,” Sharks captain Keegan Daniel said. “It’s been an incredible journey from where we were. We clawed ourselves back into this competition and gave ourselves a chance. Unfortunately we just couldn’t pull it off.”
The visiting team began with more intensity and forced the Chiefs into errors, taking a seventh-minute lead when Michalak booted a penalty.
The Chiefs scored the remaining points of the first half as winger Nanai-Williams finished off a multiphase move for a try that Cruden converted. The Chiefs playmaker then added two penalties to take his team into the break up 13-3.
No. 8 Thompson powered over off the back of a scrum six minutes into the second half to put the Chiefs 15 points ahead with a try that was awarded by the television match official after checking the grounding. Cruden made it 20-3.
Michalak converted a 52nd-minute penalty before Cruden pushed his effort just wide two minutes later.
The Chiefs got their third try with 19 minutes left after center Williams knocked the ball loose in a tackle. Replacement winger Masaga picked it up and beat two tacklers before touching down. Cruden kicked the extra points from out wide to make it 27-6 and added a penalty in the 72nd minute.
Williams, playing his last game for the Chiefs before leaving for a stint in Australia’s National Rugby League, dived over under the posts for the fourth try with three minutes remaining before leaping into the crowd to hug the home fans.
“The second half showed out trademark line speed,” Clarke added. “The boys were up and getting up in their faces. I’m very chuffed.”