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Donald Kicks Chiefs To Nail-Biting Win

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Donald Kicks Chiefs To Nail-Biting Win

Wellington, Feb 14 NZPA - Stephen Donald kept his cool with two crucial late goals to lead the Chiefs to an upset 19-18 Super 14 rugby defeat of the Sharks in Durban this morning.

A match ruined as a spectacle by wet weather came to a dramatic end, determined by the whistle of New Zealand referee Keith Brown, who earned the ire of a large crowd at ABSA Stadium.

Brown, who yellow-carded Sharks captain John Smit in the first half and fellow-Springboks front-rower Bismarck du Plessis for the final eight minutes, then made a series of crucial decisions in the closing minutes.

The last was a penalty to the Chiefs after Sharks halfback Rory Kockott fumbled at the base of a ruck. Donald's penalty kick, from straight in front, scraped inside the right upright, much to the delight of his celebrating teammates.

It capped a roller-coaster finish, with Chiefs second five-eighth Jackson Willison crossing for the game's only try with three minutes remaining after a period of pressure against the 14-man hosts. Donald put his team 16-15 ahead when he slotted the conversion from 10m in from the left touch -- keeping his cool after angry spectators threw objects onto the field as he lined up the shot.

The Chiefs failed to handle the subsequent kickoff and were penalised, allowing Kockott put his team back in front with his sixth penalty from six attempts.

However, the Sharks ultimately paid for struggling to handle Brown's breakdown rulings and Smit voiced his frustration.

"It was pretty much a lottery in terms of many factors, not only the weather," he told Supersport television.

"I'm pretty sure the manner in which we lost the game, the guys won't be too down on themselves."

Chiefs opposite Liam Messam admitted the match could have gone either way and said his side were pushed to win by memories of their most recent visit to South Africa -- last May's 61-17 loss to the Bulls in the final at Pretoria.

"We started the season with the video of that final and it motivated a lot of the boys to dig deep out there," Messam said.

The rain, combined with 32degC temperatures, made handling a nightmare and both teams relied mainly on kicking for territory.

However, the Chiefs still managed to produce some bright attacking moments and always looked the more likely side to cross the tryline.

Sharks winger JP Pietersen denied them twice in four minutes midway through the second half, with desperate tryline tackles on fullback Mike Delany and winger Tim Nanai-Williams -- the latter a late callup to start in place of the injured Dwayne Sweeney.

In a match decided by hard grind, Chiefs coach Ian Foster would have been delighted with the work of his tight five. They won the scrum battle against an all-Springboks front row while regularly disrupting the Sharks lineout.

Messam and fellow-flanker Tanerau Latimer were key figures as the visitors showed more fluency and grasp of the laws at the breakdown.

The Chiefs complete their short South African tour against the Lions in Johannesburg next weekend.

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