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Late rally helps Super Rugby champions

Sunday, March 02, 2014

AUCKLAND - Defending champions the Chiefs repelled a strong challenge from the Highlanders to become the only New Zealand team with two wins from their first two Super Rugby matches.

The Chiefs prevailed 21-19 in Hamilton, outscoring the southerners three tries to one after having to come from behind.

The Highlanders, who pulled off an impressive victory over the Blues last week, dominated first-half possession and had threatened another upset when they went into the break up 16-7.

But the Chiefs were able to get their hands more on the ball in the second spell to pull themselves back into the game.

Still trailing 19-14 with 13 minutes to go, they tied the score with a try to centre Charlie Ngatai after a big run from loose forward Liam Squire, who was making his debut off the bench.

Five-eighth Aaron Cruden then nailed the sideline conversion with what proved to be the match-winning kick.

It was tough luck for the Highlanders, who had plenty of play in the opening spell.

They scored first with a penalty to five-eighth Lima Sopoaga, who went on to land all five of his kicks at goal.

But the Chiefs struck back when they moved the ball quickly for winger Tim Nanai-Williams to dot down in the corner.

As the game opened up, the Highlanders finally managed to make the large amount of possession they were getting pay in the 32nd minute.

They drove from an attacking lineout and it was flanker John Hardie who was on hand to touch down.

Sopoaga slotted the conversion and then a penalty to give the visitors a nine-point advantage at halftime.

Chiefs No.8 Liam Messam got his team's fight-back rolling six minutes into the second spell when he scored after a patient build-up.

Sopoaga landed another penalty to make it a five-point game but the Highlanders couldn't hang on.

Both teams have a bye next weekend.

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