The Chiefs defeated the Fijian Drua by one point on Saturday. Video / Air Sports
The Chiefs kick off their Super Rugby Pacific playoff campaign on home soil.
As one of three teams with the potential to reach a home quarter-final in the final round of the season, the Chiefs got the job done – plain – with a 35-34 win over Fijian Drua in Lautoka.
Hot and humid conditions certainly played a part in the inconclusive display of the Kiwi outfit, with many handling errors creeping into their performance – under the high ball and when attempting to move the ball through the hands.
They also fell from a lot of tackles, which became apparent when the Fiji squad was able to go all over the field 10 minutes from the final horn in a game that saw four players miss tackles on Drua wing Vinaya Habosi when he picked up the ball on his own tryline , before another fell off a tackle on eventual try-scorer Kalaveti Ravouvou.
What the Chiefs managed to get out of their performance was an impressive tactical kick game, especially that of center Rameka Poihipi. Not a usual starter, Poihipi impressed with his vision and execution – making the Drua pay for maintaining a high defense line and kicking several 50/22’s to give the Chiefs a great fielding position.
The Chiefs were forced to make a change in their backbone early on when Josh Ioane had to replace Kaleb Trask after he was given a faulty cleanout attempt in which he appeared to head into a Drua defender and quickly fell to the grass .
Their problems with holding the ball started quickly, as while they had some entrepreneurial trips to Drua territory, they were very loose and often had to scoop the ball from the ground.
Still, in a good fielding position, they made the Fijian side pay. Prop Angus Ta’avao could have been mistaken for a midfielder with the line he ran against the tide to click on a flat Bryn Gatland pass and burst through a hole in the defense for the game’s first try. He was followed moments later by Gatland and the Chiefs shot out to a 14-0 lead.
The Drua had opportunities, but like the Chiefs, their execution was lacking. In the end, they were able to get through center Apisalome Vota, finishing a quick – albeit messy – period of ball movement. In the end, Chiefs Lock Brodie Retallick got the unofficial assist, pushing a loose ball into Vota’s path on the tryline.
Emoni Narawa’s attempt on the horn gave the Chiefs a 14-point lead at halftime, but the Drua were better early in the second half, kicking two penalties to close the gap.
That work was undone by a brain blast when Habosi tried to reel in a restart that sailed out into play, knocked it back into the field, only to see it picked up by Quinn Tupaea, who put Narawa in for his second.
It was set up for the Chiefs to continue with the work, but instead the Drua lifted. They beat the Chiefs with three tries to one in the last 15 minutes to lead the visitors within one point, with time left on the clock to steal the upset.
However, they were unable to perform any more magic in the last minute as the Chiefs defense held out to wrap up a shaky win.
chiefs 35 (Emoni Narawa 2, Angus Ta’avao, penalty try, Bryn Gatland tries; Gatland 4 cons)
Fijian Drua 34 (Apisalome Vota 2, Kalaveti Ravouvou, Timoci Sauvoli try; Teti Tela 4 cons, 2 pens)