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Chiefs hold out Sharks in Super Rugby

NZN 29/04/2016

Despite being outscored three tries to two, the Chiefs have clung on to beat the Sharks 24-22 in New Plymouth to stay top of Super Rugby.

The Sharks produced a strong defensive effort to keep their line intact in the second half before closing to within two points with eight minutes to go on Friday night.

Down 24-15, they put another penalty into the corner and their lineout drive, which had been a huge weapon, again game up with the goods.

This time, it was substitute hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle who touched down and first five-eighth Garth April added the extras to set up a tense finish.

But the Chiefs were able to close out the match and secure their seventh win in a row, twice turning down easy penalty attempts to ensure they hung on to the ball.

The Sharks had beaten the defending champion Highlanders the previous week, but couldn't quite get the result that would have lifted them in the wildcard spot in the South African group.

The Chiefs made a flying start at Yarrow Stadium, centre Seta Tamanivalu bursting through some weak defence to score after just 51 seconds.

They grabbed their second try in the 24th minute, with first five-eighth Aaron Cruden's long floated pass finding No.8 Michael Leitch out wide.

But the Sharks' tactic of engaging the Chiefs into a kicking duel paid off as they wore the home side down.

The South Africans' dominant lineout maul and strong scrum also came to the fore.

Down 15-3, they got their opening try when hooker Kyle Cooper finished off a clinical lineout drive.

They tied the score when another penalty was kicked to the corner and April showed some slick footwork to jink past five defenders to score, although he couldn't add the conversion that would have taken the lead.

The Chiefs dominated possession and territory in the second half, but weren't able to crack the Sharks' defence, although three penalties from Cruden gave them the upper hand.

Cruden, who resumed the kicking duties from fullback Damien McKenzie, finished with 14 points after landing five of seven shots at goal.

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