Belfast Telegraph

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Chiefs win maiden title

The Chiefs celebrated their first Super Rugby title in Hamilton thanks to a comprehensive 37-6 victory over the Sharks.

The New Zealanders made the most of home advantage by outscoring their opponents three tries to none, while Aaron Cruden kicked 17 points.

Tim Nanai-Williams, Kane Thompson, Lelia Masaga and Sonny Bill Williams all crossed the line for the Chiefs, while the Sharks' only replies came from the boot of fly-half Frederic Michalak.

The victory allowed the Chiefs to exorcise the memory of their only other Super Rugby final appearance, a humiliating 61-17 loss to the Bulls in 2009. The Sharks were poor in comparison, lacking cohesion and direction, and the travel factor must have contributed to their ineffectiveness.

Things had started brightly for the South Africans when former France international Michalak slotted a sixth-minute penalty to give them the advantage.

However, the Chiefs finally broke the shackles after 18 minutes when Nanai-Williams wormed his way between the Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, to go across in the tackle.

Cruden added the extras to make it 7-3 and a penalty followed soon after to stretch that lead. The Chiefs fly-half was just as accurate with his second penalty after 33 minutes, allowing them to take a 13-3 advantage into the interval.

And the match swung even further in the hosts' direction five minutes into the second half when Thompson breached a huge gap in the Sharks' defence to score beside the posts. Cruden's conversion took the Chiefs to a 20-3 lead.

Michalak kicked his second penalty after 51 minutes, but the Chiefs crossed again nine minutes later with wing Masaga sprinting 40 metres to dot down with Cruden once more converting.

The Chiefs strengthened their grip on proceedings with a third successful penalty from Cruden before Williams' late converted try sparked celebrations among the home supporters.

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