The Waikato Chiefs claimed their second consecutive Super Rugby title to continue New Zealand’s stranglehold on the game after they came back from 10 points down to defeat the ACT Brumbies 27-22.
With the Southern Hemisphere club rugby showcase taking place in the Chiefs hometown of Hamilton, they emerged to a cauldron of fireballs and pyrotechnics as they attempted to become the fourth team to win back-to-back titles in the competition.
The Brumbies were no pushovers though, having the momentum from their first ever victory over the British and Irish Lions in June carry them to the end of season play-offs, and they were attempting another first in trying to win the title after playing their semi-final on another continent after last week’s victory against the South Africa-based Blue Bulls.
A converted try and six penalties from Wallaby centre Christian Leali’ifano – who kicked Australia to victory in the second Test against the Lions – gave the Brumbies a 22-12 lead with just 15 minutes left on the clock.
But tries from flanker Liam Messam and replacement back Robbie Robinson four minutes apart gave the Chiefs the lead, and 17 points from the boot of New Zealand international Aaron Cruden saw the home side take the victory.
"I think it was a real tough final," said Chiefs co-captain Craig Clarke, one of a number of players who will be moving overseas at end of the season.
"We have to pay credit to an awesome Brumbies team for a hell of a performance, especially after all the travelling they've done.
"It's been an awesome couple of seasons and a great group to be part of. Big ups for what we have done."
The Brumbies were admirable in defeat, and captain Ben Mowen admitted the Chiefs needed something special
They join the Auckland Blues, Canterbury Crusaders – who they beat in the semi-finals – Bulls and the Brumbies in becoming multiple winners of the annual provincial tournament.
The players attentions will now turn to the Rugby Championship, where New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina will compete to claim overall bragging rights in the Southern Hemisphere. New Zealand start as favourites, and the Chiefs success only backs up that the World Cup holders are simply untouchable when it comes to the number one side in the world.
See there unusual celebration with there take on the traditional 'Haka' wardance below...
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