Super Rugby Pacific: Five takeaways from Moana Pasifika v Chiefs including Damian McKenzie shining at 10

Super Rugby Pacific Damian McKenzie Chiefs SR 2021 - PA.jpg Credit: Alamy
Super Rugby Pacific Damian McKenzie Chiefs SR 2021 - PA.jpg Credit: Alamy

Following the Chiefs’ 52-29 triumph over Moana Pasifika in Melbourne on Saturday, Planet Rugby picks out five takeaways from the action.

Damian McKenzie is the real deal

The diminutive playmaker was in excellent form as he pulled the strings in the Chiefs backline for most of the time during this entertaining encounter.

The 27-year-old hit the ground running against Moana as he shone with his outstanding playmaking skills and game management while he also impressed with solid goal-kicking. McKenzie caught the eye early on with a perfectly weighted long pass to Liam Coombes-Fabling, who cantered in for a try and continued to ask questions of Moana’s defence during a 66-minute stint on the field.

The fly-half also crossed the whitewash and slotted five conversions, and after also shining in last week’s opener against the Crusaders, he will be determined to continue with his fine form. With Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett leaving New Zealand rugby following the World Cup in September, McKenzie could be the All Blacks’ first choice number 10 in 2024.

Moana Pasifika’s poor start proved costly

As good as the Chiefs were during the opening period, they could only play as well as their opposition allowed them to and unfortunately, Moana Pasifika battled to get going in Melbourne.

Moana made numerous unforced errors during the first half, as there were several knock-ons and captain Christian Leali’ifano was blown up on two occasions for not letting the ball travel over 10 metres when restarting the match. Moana also struggled in the scrums, which resulted in head coach Aaron Mauger replacing his entire front-row – Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Suetena Asomua and Michael Curry – and although there was some improvement in the second half, the damage was done and they paid the price in the end.

The decision-making from Leali’ifano and fellow half-back Manu Paea was also poor during the first half, and if Moana want to clinch their first win of the season, they will have to deliver an improved performance over a full 80 minutes.

Shaun Stevenson could be an All Blacks bolter

With the World Cup just over seven months away, there will be several players aiming to impress All Blacks head coach Ian Foster ahead of the global showpiece in France.

Stevenson is one such player, and he has played well on a consistent basis for the Chiefs now for several seasons he could be a surprise inclusion in the All Blacks squad this year. Against Moana, he took a while to get going but still managed to score a hat-trick of tries. This, after he gained 55 metres on attack from six runs, which included one clean break, a defender beaten, and an offload.

Equally, at home at full-back or on the wing, he did the business in the number 15 jersey in this game and showed that he could do a job for New Zealand at Test level.

Chiefs need to work on their discipline

Although this year’s Super Rugby Pacific tournament is only in its second week, the Hamilton-based outfit showed that they are serious title contenders as they sealed a comprehensive win over Moana.

However, it was a game of two halves as the men from Hamilton went off the boil after the interval, and ill-discipline on defence was the root cause for them losing the second half 26-14 to their opponents. After going into the sheds at half-time with a comfortable 38-3 lead, the Chiefs looked a different side in the second half, and their opponents made them pay.

Clayton McMillan’s troops’ intensity levels dropped, and their discipline let them down as they conceded several penalties on defence, which resulted in their opponents coming back into the match. A particular concern is that three Chiefs players – Brad Weber, Cortez Ratima and Bryn Gatland – were yellow-carded during the second half, and they will have to improve their discipline if they want to continue being title contenders.

Not all doom and gloom for Moana

The Pacific islanders were under the cosh for most of this match, but they showed in the second half that they have what it takes to compete against a team like the Chiefs, who are one of the better teams in the competition.

They came out firing in the second half, with their backline particularly impressive with the likes of Levi Aumua, Danny Toala, Timoci Tavatavanawai and Fine Isi asking questions of their opponent’s defence.

Up front, the loose trio of Jonah Mau’u, Miracle Faiʻilagi and Solomone Funaki also had some good moments with Funaki rewarded with a try for his efforts while Faiʻilagi did well as a ball carrier as he gained 73 attacking metres from six carries which included one clean break and two defenders beaten. The 23-year-old has great potential and stood up well in his direct duel with All Blacks back-row Pita Gus Sowakula.

READ MORE: WATCH: Rameka Poihipi scores fastest try in Super Rugby history in Chiefs’ win over Moana Pasifika

The article Super Rugby Pacific: Five takeaways from Moana Pasifika v Chiefs including Damian McKenzie shining at 10 appeared first on