Chiefs back on top
Tries from Masaga and Nanai-Williams see off Force
Last Updated: 06/04/12 5:11pm
The Chiefs are back on the top of the Super 15 table following a gritty 20-12 success over Western Force at nib Stadium.
The Force had their tails up going into the game on the back of a 45-19 thrashing of the Reds, but could not replicate that performance as the Chiefs secured a tight victory.
Wingers Lelia Masaga and Tim Nanai-Williams scored tries to help the Chiefs win their fifth consecutive game and move to first place overall, at least until the Highlanders play the Stormers on Saturday.
Aaron Cruden also slotted two penalties and two conversions for the visitors, whose dominance of the early part of the game through their expansive back play and impressive forward display against a highly-regarded Force pack was not reflected on the scoreboard.
Only the boot of full-back David Harvey, who appeared to dislocate a finger in the first half but still slotted four of his five penalty goal attempts, kept the Force in it as they rarely threatened the try line before lifting in the final 20 minutes.
There was real heat in the contest early, highlighted by an incident just five minutes in when Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna dragged Nathan Sharpe out of a ruck by grabbing the lock's helmet, and the visitors' aggression saw them give away a simple penalty to hand the Force an early lead.
But the Hamilton-based side enjoyed the run of play early and took advantage when a spectacular Aaron Cruden run broke the line and he offloaded to Masaga for the try.
A menacing Chiefs attack looked like scoring nearly every time they had the ball, let down only by some simple ball-handling errors in a first half they had 61 per cent of possession and territory in, but they could not ensure that was reflected on the scoreboard and led only 7-6 at the break.
But finally the Chiefs made their dominance count after the break when they worked the ball out and after Sonny Bill Williams drew five defenders and the former rugby league star popped the ball inside back to Nanai-Williams for the try.
A pair of Harvey penalties sandwiched a Cruden goal kept the Force in the contest and they did lift after the second try but it was their turn to fail to make it count.
Cruden slotted another three-pointer with 12 minutes left to extend their advantage to eight and allow the Kiwis to hold on for their fifth win from six games.