Sharks suffer first loss as Chiefs roll on unbeaten
Damian McKenzie was in sparkling form as the Waikato Chiefs maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a seven-try rout of the Sunwolves while the Wellington Hurricanes brought the Coastal Sharks' winning run to a halt.
McKenzie, who missed last year's World Cup in Japan because of injury, capped a superb performance with 11 points from a try and three conversions in Tokyo as the Chiefs ran away with a 43-17 victory.
In Wellington, the Hurricanes and Sharks were locked 17-all at half-time before a Ben Lam double after the break put the momentum firmly with the 'Canes who won 38-22.
The Chiefs, who chose to rest several of their top players including regular captain Sam Cane, were caught napping early when flyhalf Garth April wriggled over for the Sunwolves to open the scoring.
But with last year's shock loss to the Tokyo outfit still haunting the Chiefs, they quickly came alive with McKenzie releasing Solomon Alaimalo to touch down in the corner.
"If you don't turn up with the right attitude any team can beat you. We found that out the hard way, that (result last year) was a massive driver for us today," Chiefs' stand-in captain Brad Weber said.
Tries by Shaun Stevenson, Weber and McKenzie for the Chiefs before Jaba Bregvadze bowled over on the halftime buzzer for the Sunwolves saw the visitors turn with a 24-12 lead.
Lachlan Boshier raced through to add a fifth try for the Chiefs soon after the restart and after Shogo Nakano pulled one back for the Sunwolves, the New Zealanders hit back with two late scores from Quinn Tupaea and Kaleb Trask.
"It was incredibly important," Weber said of the win. "We needed some of our big guys to put their heads in dark places and slow the ball down."
The Hurricanes, in their first home game after opening in SA and Argentina, produced an entertaining first half with the Sharks.
Visiting props John-Hubert Meyer and Juan Schoeman combined in a move that would have done any backs proud to cross the line early for the Sharks only to be pulled back for a forward pass.
The Sharks eventually produced the first try with an 80-metre move that started with an intercept by skipper Lukhayo Am and was finished by Madosh Tambwe.
In a flurry of scoring midway through the half, Jordie Barrett entered the backline to put Wes Goosen over for the 'Canes first try, the Sharks responded immediately with a long range try to replacement flyhalf Sanele Nohamba before a Barrett cross-kick put Ngani Laumape on a 50-metre run to the line.
With penalties by Barrett and Nohambaa padding out the scoring they turned level at 17-all and the Hurricanes opened up a dominant lead with Lam's twin long-range strikes in an ill-tempered second half.
Dane Coles, in his first outing of the year, scored from a lineout drive to put the Hurricanes ahead 38-17 with the Sharks scoring with a late try to Mzamo Majola.
"We did score some really good tries - the likes of Lam, Nans (Laumape) they did their thing - but the three tries we let in we will be disappointed with," Hurricanes captain TJ Perenara said.
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