Super Rugby Notebook, Mar 26: Four-star Ngatai leads Chiefs rout, targets New Zealand spot - HOLD


Charlie Ngatai has set his sights on filling the void left by Ma'a Nonu's retirement for New Zealand after running in four tries in Chiefs' 53-10 humiliation of Force in Super Rugby on Saturday.

All Blacks legend Nonu gave up Test rugby following their Rugby World Cup win last year and bulldozing centre Ngatai did his chances of taking on his mantle with a devastating play for Chiefs.

All of Ngatai's tries came in a second half in which Chiefs outscored Force 41-0 in Hamilton to seal their biggest winning margin against Force.

"I know with Ma'a gone now, there's a lot of competition, with George [Moala] and also Ryan Crotty back, and also 13, with Malakai [Fekitoa] there," Ngatai said.

"So there's a big gaping hole for someone to put their hand up and take it. So all you can do is play your best week in, week out.

"I think I'm playing a lot better than what I was in previous years. Just a lot more confident in myself and being out there for 80 minutes helps your game."

Also on Saturday, champions Highlanders impressed at Rebels, Bulls earned their first win outside of South Africa in over three years, Brumbies returned to winnings ways, Crusaders ended Sharks' unbeaten run and Stormers outdid Jaguares.



Chiefs 53-10 Force

It was another poor outing for Force, routed 41-6 by Hurricanes last time out, as Chiefs ran riot in a nine-try demolition. Chiefs led by just two points at the break, but Toni Pulu, James Lowe and Damian McKenzie's second added to Ngatai's impressive haul.


Rebels 3-27 Highlanders

Highlanders finished a two-match tour of Australia in impressive fashion. The champions were brilliant defensively and forced plenty of turnovers, while well-placed kicks led to their first two tries for Rob Thompson and James Wilson.


Sunwolves 27-30 Bulls

Sunwolves stayed in contention despite Bulls' domination of territory and possession, but several costly errors - including a comical poorly communicated line-out that resulted in Liaki Moli being hit on the back of the head - proved their downfall. Yellow cards in each half for Tomas Leonardi and Ed Quirk also hindered the hosts, who at least took a losing bonus point from Yuki Yatomi's late try. 


Cheetahs 18-25 Brumbies

After losing in Cape Town to Stormers last time out, Brumbies rebounded with a fourth win of the season. Ita Vaea and Aidan Toua touched down to put the hosts 15-8 in front by half-time in Bloemfontein. Ben Alexander stretched the lead after the break and they held on despite Sergeal Petersen's late converted try.


Sharks 14-19 Crusaders

Sharks headed into the contest unbeaten in Super Rugby this season, but they lost out in a brutal encounter and lost Philip van der Walt to injury. Returning Crusaders skipper Kieran Read was the hero with a match-winning try nine minutes from time to end the only undefeated record in Super Rugby this season.


Jaguares 8-13 Stormers

The Stormers got it done early as two penalties from Kurt Coleman and a Cheslin Kolbe try in the first half secured the win for the visitors. Jeronimo De La Fuente broke through the Stormers defence early in the second to register his own try, but the visiting defence held strong for the rest of the match to secure the win.



Force stayed with Chiefs for the first half, but Angus Cottrell's 56th-minute yellow card for a tip-tackle on Sam McNicol. The numbers game quickly led to a debut try for Pulu and the floodgates subsequently opened.

Sunwolves started well enough, but Leonardi's yellow for a cynical penalty and in his absence Tiaan Schoeman kicked three penalties and Adriaan Strauss scored off a driving maul.



"Our carry and the quality of our clean [ball] got better as the game wore on so we were able to generate quicker ball. The second half was pretty impressive." - Chiefs coach Dave Rennie liked what he saw in the Force battering.

"It was an awesome way to finish [a two-match tour of Australia]. We wanted to put in an 80-minute performance and I think we did that tonight." - Highlanders co-captain Shane Christie salutes the champions' win in Melbourne.



Chiefs' brilliant win leaves them clear at the top of the Australasian group for another week, while Stormers have managed the same in the South African group. Brumbies remain top of the Australian conference and Sharks remain top of the Africa 2 Conference standings despite their loss to Crusaders.