Two tries in the closing five minutes, one to Super Rugby centurion Tanerau Latimer, boosted the Chiefs to a five-try 36-20 win over the Stormers at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Friday.
First half tries to Super Rugby rookies James Lowe and Tom Marshall, and the accurate boot of Aaron Cruden, gave the Chiefs a 17-6 lead at halftime, but they had to dig deep in the second spell as the Stormers mounted a stirring comeback in the closing minutes.
The Chiefs improved their discipline at the breakdown, managing to generate enough quick ball to keep the Stormers’ impressive rushing defence on the back foot for long stretches of the game.
Fired by some snappy work from halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow, the Chiefs back line constantly threatened out wide, but the defending champions also showed commendable patience in building phases and creating pressure.
Lowe crossed for the Chiefs’ first try after 18 minutes, the home team capitalising on a turnover first through Tim Nanai-Williams’ pace then from a flukey back-heel courtesy of Tom Marshall.
Stormers five-eighth Demetri Catrakilis kept the South Africans in the game with two penalties, but the Chiefs added a second try through Marshall right on the halftime whistle for a useful lead at the break.
Kerr-Barlow extended the margin barely a minute after the restart, and the Chiefs looked set to close out the win as they kept the Stormers scoreless for the next 20 minutes.
However, the Stormers battled back, Gio Aplon and replacement loose forward Nizaam Carr both crashing over in the space of 10 minutes to leave the Chiefs with a narrow 24-20 lead and six minutes remaining.
But Chiefs flanker Tevita Koloamatangi wrested the game back when he crossed in the 77th minute before Latimer was bundled over in an unstoppable Chiefs rolling maul for their fifth try in the last minute of play.