Damian McKenzie booted the Waikato Chiefs to yet another late win in a 26-24 victory over the Wellington Hurricanes on Friday to boost their chances of making the Super Rugby Aotearoa final.
McKenzie’s 82nd-minute penalty kick extended the Chiefs’ winning run to five matches, turning around a form slump that blighted the start of their season in the New Zealand competition.
McKenzie has been a key part of the Chiefs’ hot streak and captain Brad Weber praised his composure in key moments after the dramatic, final-kick win over the Hurricanes.
“We’ve got to stop doing that, it’s not good for my heart,” Weber said, after a dramatic match in Hamilton.
“He’s been ‘Mr. Clutch’ for us all year so I never had a sliver of doubt, he’s been hitting them all year.”
The Hurricanes entered the match out of finals contention and playing for pride, but Weber said the Chiefs also had a point to prove after being written off early in the season.
“It was ugly, and the Hurricanes were probably the better team for a lot of the game,” he said.
“But I’m not surprised where we are right now. I know the work we’ve been putting in and we deserve it.”
The result puts the Chiefs ahead of the Auckland Blues in the race for a final berth, with defending champions the Canterbury Crusaders almost certain to reach the decider.
The Hurricanes scored in the first minute when lock James Blackwell broke the defensive line and sprinted away for a try.
The Chiefs hit back with a McKenzie penalty and a try to Pita-Gus Sowakul, who broke away from the base of a scrum to power over the line.
It was 10-all at the break after Jordie Barrett kicked a 55-metre penalty as the half-time siren sounded.
The Chiefs regained the lead with another McKenzie penalty, and extended it when Bryn Gatland scooped up Weber’s pass for a converted try.
Hurricanes centre Billy Proctor narrowed the gap to 20-17 after being set up by a run from Devan Flanders, then Asafo Aumua’s try put them in front.
But McKenzie’s penalty from 45 metres out delivered the win for the Chiefs.