HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND - Damien McKenzie reveled in a positional switch, scoring a try among 18 points as the Chiefs ended a four-match losing streak by drawing with the Hurricanes 23-23 in Super Rugby on Friday.
McKenzie moved to fullback after playing the first four matches of the season at flyhalf and found his best form, dashing away for a 20th-minute try and kicking three penalties and two conversions.
His final penalty, a monster from 58 meters, tied it at 23-23 after 57 minutes, and though both teams had ample chances, neither could break the deadlock.
While both teams were dissatisfied with a draw, both could claim it marked an improvement. For the Chiefs, it was a massive step up from last week’s record 57-14 loss to the Crusaders while for the Hurricanes it was the first time in 12 years they have avoided defeat in Hamilton.
“I’m gutted that we didn’t quite get it over the line,” Chiefs captain Brodie Retallick said. “But when you look around at the fulltime whistle both teams are on their haunches so it’s definitely a step in the right direction. We’re still hunting that first win but I know it’s going to be close after tonight.”
The match was played at a breakneck pace and was full of brilliant, inventive attacking play and physical defense which left players exhausted by the end. But the teams were also guilty of elementary errors — missed touches, dropped passes, poor attacking options — which prevented either seizing and retaining the upper hand.
The Chiefs struck first with a try to center Anton Lienert-Brown from a chargedown.
The Hurricanes bungled two try-scoring chances before Beauden Barrett put them on the board with a penalty. They then hit the front with a try to center Matt Proctor.
McKenzie’s try, which saw him run onto the ball at full speed and run more than 30 meters, gave the Chiefs a lead they held through halftime.
The Hurricanes regained the lead with a try to winger Wes Goosen but McKenzie’s long range penalty left the teams in deadlock.
In a later all-Australian match, the ACT Brumbies beat the New South Wales Waratahs 19-13. After two defeats in a row, hooker Folau Fainga’a scored a pair of tries to lead the Brumbies to victory.