Chiefs take bite out of Sharks, Highlanders quell Jaguares
The Sharks at least gained a losing bonus point to edge ahead of the Bulls and Jaguares in the South Africa group.
WELLINGTON - The Chiefs kept their play-off hopes alive when two tries from captain Brad Weber delivered a 29-23 Super Rugby victory over the Sharks on Saturday, while the Highlanders hung on to beat the Jaguares.
It moved the Chiefs off the bottom of the New Zealand conference and importantly within two points of making the top eight.
The Highlanders who beat the Jaguares 32-27 after holding a 13-point lead at half-time, lie in fifth place overall while the Jaguares slipped back to seventh.
The Sharks, backing up from holding the table-topping Crusaders to a draw last week, at least gained a losing bonus point to edge ahead of the Bulls and Jaguares in the South Africa group.
The Chiefs, who produced a late burst to draw with the Highlanders last week, again looked out of the contest when they trailed the Sharks 23-17 before producing two tries in two minutes to snatch the result.
"I certainly think last week against the 'Landers helped. We had to go to a deep, dark place to get that so we knew if we stuck at it, it could be ours," Weber said.
Sharks captain Louis Schreuder blamed a momentary lapse of concentration for letting the game slip away.
"Small mistakes, one a linebreak from a lineout and one from a kick off and two tries. That's what cost us," he said.
The Chiefs pressured the Sharks line for the first 10 minutes but their only reward was a penalty by Marty McKenzie.
After a concerted defensive effort staved off a relentless Sharks' attack, hooker Atu Moli led the Chiefs back on attack for Weber to score their opening try to start a flurry of scoring in the closing 15 minutes of the half.
A Curwin Bosch penalty and a converted try to Hyron Andrews, with the big lock out-running the Chiefs backs, levelled the score at 10-10 before Mitch Karpik scored a second try for the Chiefs and Bosch landed a second penalty.
The second half saw both sides employ kick-and-chase tactics in the search for territory and eventually it was the Chiefs who cracked first with Ruan Botha crashing over.
Bosch stretched the lead with a penalty before the Chiefs regained control with the tries of Anton Lienert-Brown and Weber.
The Jaguares took the unconventional move of stacking their bench with an army of internationals and starting with a largely untested combination against the Highlanders.
At half-time they were down 26-13 before Agustin Creevy, Tomas Lavanini, Pablo Matera and Thomas Cubelli came off the bench and they closed with five points before their chance of victory was undone by a string of late penalties.
"We did a great job in coming back to the game," said Cubelli.
"But the end of the game was a bit frustrating. We'll have to double, even triple check some of the penalties at the end."
The Highlanders scored four tries, but all in the first half, while Jaguares produced three tries including two as they closed the gap in the second half.