Super Rugby Aotearoa: Relieved Chiefs coach hails 'dynamo' Damian McKenzie in shock win

Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan hailed his dynamo Damian McKenzie and insisted he doesnt have much time for records: winning or losing ones.
Luckily then, for McMillan, his side avoided the most unwanted tag in Super Rugby in the column losing streaks, when a marvellous McKenzie second half inspired a 35-29 upset of the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday night.

At 26-7 down with 23 minutes left at Sky Stadium, the Chiefs were on track for a 12th straight defeat which would have overtaken the Highlanders of 2012-13 among New Zealand streaks of shame.

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Damian McKenzie and Jonah Lowe of the Chiefs celebrate their victory over the Hurricanes.

From nowhere, as the Hurricanes clocked off, the Chiefs rattled up 21 points in nine minutes, including a wonderful long-range Brad Weber try sparked by McKenzie.

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Yeah, probably more relief than anything. It didnt look pretty for a while there but Im pretty proud of the fellas for gusting it out and showcasing what they can actually do when we get a bit of front foot ball, McMillan said.

Youre mindful that its there, but I dont care too much for records, winning or losing. It didnt change my thinking yesterday and it wont tomorrow. My job is to create a good culture, one where everybody, a young squad, desperately want to be better every day.

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Chiefs fullback Damian McKenzie had the ball on the string in the second half.

McMillan oversaw defeats to the Highlanders and Crusaders this year, after their horror Super Rugby Aotearoa season under Warren Gatland in 2020. The sides last victory was one year and two weeks ago, over the Waratahs in Wollongong, and the Hurricanes beat them three times since then.

On Saturday it became the duel of the All Blacks fullbacks, with Jordie Barrett a huge presence in the Hurricanes seemingly matchwinning 19-point halftime lead.

McKenzie had some early blemishes, then in the second half when shifting to first-five for Kaleb Trask was superb and the most influential Chief in their comeback. He converted all five of their tries, too, including Luke Jacobsons to ice victory with five minutes left, and his coach marvelled at how he didn't overplay his hand.

Hes just a quality player. From the outside looking in, you know hes always been a quality pemain for the Chiefs and the All Blacks, but its taken me to go into the environment to see how electric he is at training, how free spirited he is hes a dynamo and can create a lot out of nothing, McMillan said.

Masanori Udagawa/Getty Images
Brad Weber finally has reason to celebrate after another Chiefs try.

The halftime talk centred on not gifting the Hurricanes access to their half, and working harder for longer. The bench made an impact too, notably former Hurricane Chase Tiatia.

Can they maintain it now? The Blues loom in Hamilton on Saturday, fresh off a big clash with the Crusaders.

Said McMillan with a grin: Ill be more confident if half of them [Blues] fall over tomorrow.

Theyre a quality side but weve got the monkey off our back. Weve shown we can stress the best teams if we are consistent and accurate for longer.

We get to play at home and well be dangerous. Weve got to get our preparation right, recover well, celebrate well, and just keep building the belief in the boys.

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Hurricanes captain Ardie Savea keeps a brave face after the Chiefs made it 0-3 for their season.

Hurricanes coach Jason Holland, meanwhile, couldnt understate his disappointment.

Now 0-3 after losses to the Blues and Crusaders, and eyeing the Highlanders on Friday night, Hollands men had the match in safe keeping after four first half tries including a double to the dangerous Salesi Rayasi.

Im just trying to get my head around it. I feel like its one of the most disappointing games Ive been involved with, around how we threw that away, Holland said.

The boys in the first half were outstanding and did all the things we talked about; our set piece went well and we had them under pressure. We finished off with exactly the things we worked at during the week, found space and executed perfectly, the boys nailed it.

For some reason in that second half we got bored of doing the right thing and being dominant. It felt like we could have just really ground them into the floor.


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