How 2016 changed Damian McKenzie

Super Rugby pre-season is now in session, and the Chiefs continues to be a great destination for blooding expressive young talent keen to get time on the field.

The Chiefs showed great signs of improvement during 2016’s Super Rugby campaign. It wasn’t as if Dave Rennie’s men were particularly bad the season prior, but some young talent really came into itself throughout 2016, and they helped the Chiefs to much success.

Despite having some rich experience in the form of seasoned veterans, the Chiefs have become the best club in New Zealand at developing young talent into International quality players.   Continue reading How 2016 changed Damian McKenzie

Chiefs prepare to launch beginning with home clash against Rebels

The Chiefs say their confidence hasn’t been dented despite a poor loss to the in-form Highlanders last time out in which ball security was a major issue.

Head coach Dave Rennie says he spent a lot of time looking at his sides last performance on video during the bye week.

“We had a pretty brutal review, but in the end it is a pretty good learning curve for us and the Highlanders exposed a couple of areas that we need to be sharper in”, Rennie said.

The Chiefs believe that they are in a position to launch towards the playoffs with just four rounds of regular competition remaining, and two rounds remaining before the June international window that will see a handful of the Chiefs players going off on All Black duties. Continue reading Chiefs prepare to launch beginning with home clash against Rebels

McKenzie’s Enoyable Time At Chiefs Makes Decision To Stay Easier

It has been an eventful week for Damian McKenzie, but his decision to stay with the Chiefs is likely due to his comfort in the team environment.

In the eyes of some people, Damian McKenzie made a bad decision when he chose not to take up the offer made to him by the Blues.

But for the 21-year old, the decision to stay with the Chiefs could be because the “here and now” is not all there is to consider.

McKenzie is very small in size, and this is going to be commented on time and time again throughout his career. It is something that has never bothered Mckenzie himself, but with that says, the 21-year old knows it could  be a disadvantage in many matches, and there was no denying that in the weekends 26-13 loss to the Highlanders.

McKenzie had much ball in hand but struggled to do anything of note against the Highlanders, but he showed just as much bravery as ever.

But, the stats back it up, McKenzie has not slotted any points for the Chiefs since the clash against the Hurricanes two weeks ago. Continue reading McKenzie’s Enoyable Time At Chiefs Makes Decision To Stay Easier

Damian McKenzie Will Stay In Hamilton For Further 2 Years

The hottest property in New Zealand Rugby will stay with the Chiefs for another two years.

Damian McKenzie has signed on with the Chiefs for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, extending his contract with the club for another two years.

The 21-year old says that the environment and quality of the coaching staff was key in his decision to put pen to paper.

“The team environment is one of a kind and the wider organisation has been very helpful with my career so far”, McKenzie said.

McKenzie says he has a lot of respect for head coach Dave Rennie, and thanks to the help of assistant coach Andrew Strawbridge, McKenzie has taken his kicking game to another level in the past year. Continue reading Damian McKenzie Will Stay In Hamilton For Further 2 Years

McKenzie Breaks Century Record As Chiefs Thrash Brumbies

The Chiefs have broken a long losing-streak in Canberra dating back to 2008, punishing the Brumbies 58-23 tonight.

Dave Rennie’s men punished the Brumbies who went into the match as Super Rugby’s best defensive team, and closest-rivals to the Chiefs on the points table.

The Chiefs ran in six tries, including a double for James Lowe on the wing, and it was nothing short of punishing, a performance fitting of a team that deserves its place on top of the Super Rugby ladder.

Lowe’s two tries puts him into the top tier of players to dot over the line in 2016, but it was the wingers ability to kick into space and put the Chiefs deep into Brumbies territory that was equally as impressive. Continue reading McKenzie Breaks Century Record As Chiefs Thrash Brumbies

Chiefs Win Historic Jaguares Encounter 30-26 In Thriller

Brad Weber has scored what will go down as a famous try to hand the Chiefs a win over the Jaguares 30-26 in a thrilling finish.

A full house and expectant home crowd packed into Estadio Jose in Bruenos Aires for the Jaguares historic first home game in Super Rugby, and the new side packed full of regular Pumas nearly pulled off something special.

Leading at the break, the Jaguares appeared to have just fallen short, before a brilliant breakaway try with three minutes remaining put the hosts in front.

But a try at the death by Brad Weber, following by a perfect kick from Damian McKenzie on the touch line, snatched victory for the Chiefs, making Weber a hero, and providing a thrilling finish to one of the best matches in Super Rugby history.

Weber can pay a lot of his historic moment to Aaron Cruden, showing all his class as an All Black regular, helping to setup the try, and creating space for Weber to run into.

The full story:

Argentine rugby is known for its power at scrum time, so perhaps it was fate that the first try the Jaguares would score at home in Argentina came from this. Jaguares captain Augistin Creevy getting the honours as the first to score a try for the club playing at home.

A handling error after the kick off saw the Jaguares early lead be quickly snatched away, quick hands by the Chiefs backline saw winger Sam MicNicol score his debut try in Super Rugby in the corner.

Damian McKenzie added a fourth try in as many matches to increase the Chiefs lead after the Jaguares coughed up possession near their own try line for the second time.

Constant penalties began to mount against the Chiefs as the Jaguares continued to play their expansive, fast-flowing, and brave style, refusing to kick possession away. All Black halfback and experienced Chiefs player Tawera Kerr-Barlow was sent to the sin bin for playing the ball on the ground and illegally taking possession away from the Jaguares.

Nicolas Sanchez’s boot saw the Jaguares kick their way back into the lead with the score 14-13 at half time.

With Aaron Cruden failing to convert on his chances in the first half, Damian McKenzie was given the kicking duties, and continued his rich vain of form with the boot to kick the Chiefs back into the lead.

The dominance that the Jaguares had in the scrum fell away, and when the handling errors continued, Chiefs midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown created a counter attack, and James Lowe was there to clutch the pass and score in the corner.

The Jaguares kept their faith in an expansive style of rugby, often attempting to run the ball out of their own goal line.

After television replays showed Martin Landojo had touched the ball down, the Jaguars were right back in the match, and it was their daring brand of rugby that had been on the script all night that turned the match on its head again.

From deep in their own half, and helped by weak tackles from Chiefs defenders, Martias Moroni raced away to score, and put the Jaguares into the lead.

With precious time remaining, the Chiefs were awarded a scrum, and after a successful execution, Aaron Cruden found space and connected with Brad Weber to score a try that put the Chiefs back in front, but only by two points.

Damian McKenzie converted from out wide, giving the Chiefs a 30-26 lead, and the win.

Score Centre

Jaguares 26

(Augistin Creevy, Martin Landojo, Martias Moroni, Nicolas Sanchez 3 pen, 1 con)

Chiefs 30

(Sam McNicol, James Lowe, Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie 1 try, 1 pen, 2 con, Aaron Cruden 1 pen)

Controversial Call As Lions Beat Chiefs 36-32

The Chiefs have narrowly missed out on victory for the second week in a row, losing a controversial nail biter to the Lions 36-32.

A crowd of over 15,000 at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton willed their team on, but a high penalty count and superior Lions physicality across saw the Chiefs constantly chasing the game.

Dave Rennie’s men tried until the final siren, where a controversial penalty by referee Andrew Lees, saw the Lions escape with the win after the Chiefs stormed back into the game in the second half.

It was the second straight win for the Lions, and the second week in a row that the Chiefs have struggled in the set piece and at scrum time.

The full story:

The Chiefs took the early lead thanks to the boot of Damian McKenzie, but the Lions answered back when Elton Jantjies landed a kick of his own.

Jantjies put the Lions in front with his second three thanks to the Chiefs being offside in the ruck.

Loose-forward Tom Sanders scored his first try in Super Rugby to put the Chiefs back in the lead 8-6.

The try was thanks large in part to a dashing run down field by Seta Taminavalu, the Chiefs midfielder powerfully fending off Lions defenders to create space.

Persistent possession from turnover ball at the breakdown saw the Lions begin to hold the Chiefs in their red zone. The pressure eventually led to a try as the long period of possession paid off.

Lions hooker Malcolm Marx scored to put the Lions back in front.

Jantjies extended the Lions lead to 16-8 as the penalty count mounted considerably against the Chiefs, and the young Lions first-five landed yet another three moments later, making it 19-8.

McKenzie gave the Chiefs some respite, landing a penalty on the halftime siren to head into the sheds trailing 19-11.

Brodie Retallick departed early in the second half with a niggle to his left shoulder.

The Lions pushed further into the lead when the speed of winger Courtnal Skosan proved to be too much for the Chiefs defense, stepping through two defenders and scoring in the corner for the Lions second try.

Trailing 24-11, Dave Rennie began ringing the changes in the hopes of providing a little impact off the bench in a game where the Chiefs were finding it difficult to get anything going on offense.

McKenzie scored after receiving the ball in space, notching a crucial five-pointer to bring the Chiefs closer.

Stunning footwork from James Lowe fooled the Lions defense, and in one of the best tries of the season so far, the Chiefs hit back into the lead 25-24 in a game that had suddenly turned into a nail biter.

Warren Whitely smashed through as the Lions surged again, scoring to put his side back in front, the score 31-25 after Jantjies converted.

Sideline referee’s missed a clear foot on the line as the Lions took possession from broken play, and amongst the chaos, Lions backs found themselves with an overlap.

Ruan Combrinck scored the Lions fourth try, increasing the lead past 10-points with the last part of the match remaining.

With no choice but to go onto full attack, the Chiefs turned down an easy three points, choosing to opt for an attacking lineout close to the try line, and the gamble paid off.

Brad Weber swiped the ball from the back of the ruck and scored a crucial try for the Chiefs. McKenzie converted, but the Chiefs were still behind by four points with the score now 36-32.

Referee Andrew Lees had the final say in the match, penalising the Chiefs with attacking ball on the five-metre line, despite replays suggesting that the Lions forward pack had illegally brought down the rolling maul on the last play of the game.

The Lions won 36-32 and secured their second win on the trot.

Score Centre

Chiefs 32

(Tom Sanders, James Lowe, Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie 1 try, 2 pen, 4 con)

Lions 36

( Malcom Marx, Courtnal Skosan, Warren Whitely, Ruan Combrink, Elton Jantjies 4 pen, 2 con)

Damian McKenzie fit and ready to smile again

Damian McKenzie is back in Hamilton and ready to begin what will be an important season, but like always, he will do it with a smile.

After a short holiday with friends and family, McKenzie has begun his second season in Super Rugby at the Chiefs, and his game has already come on leaps and bounds.

For McKenzie himself, you get the feeling that it will never be about what other people say, but more about what the he believes.

McKenzie believes in himself – and that is his greatest asset.

In many ways, McKenzie is the exact opposite of what you’d imagine.

Quietly enthusiastic, good looking, and a freakishly good skill set that could be world-class, McKenzie has all the makings to be one of the most exciting rugby players of this generation.

Last year, McKenzie was the apprentice, but some would say that in 2016 he is ready to go to the next level.

But McKenzie can only reach that level if given a long-term chance.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie says that McKenzie is ready to kick on after an impressive ending to 2015 but hasn’t hinted at the possibility of being first starter on game day.

“If you look at Damian, he learnt a hell of a lot from last season, continued that form on in ITM Cup, and we hope he will step up even further,” Rennie said.

Some would say that McKenzie is at risk of playing second fiddle to returning All Black first five Aaron Cruden throughout the Super Rugby season in 2016.

McKenzie’s ability to have an impact playing at fullback is clear, but many rugby critics remain sceptical.

Though McKenzie possesses surprising strength and blistering pace, qualities suited to a fullback, all evidence so far has shown that he has much more of an impact on a game when playing at first five.

McKenzie’s all round game was much improved during ITM Cup rugby with the Mooloos and all signs point to that trend continuing with the Chiefs.

The youngster wont have it easy in 2016 with two former All Blacks playing in his position, but like always, McKenzie will quietly go about his own game.

The shuffling and rotation of the first fives won’t continue in 2016 so McKenzie is in the best position to impress again.

Captain fantastic leads Waikato to Ranfurly Shield

Waikato are the new holders of the Ranfurly Shield after beating Hawkes Bay 36-30 in a thriller.

Credit: Radio Sport

It has been a difficult season for Waikato, but to end as the new Shield holders will provide this young group with a lot of well-earned confidence and it was the young stars that helped get Waikato over the line in a hostile atmosphere in Napier.

Brad Weber scored a hat trick on the way to leading Waikato to victory, but the maturity of Damian McKenzie will be a major talking point as the 20-year old guided the side around the park and put in a monster effort defensively, including one of the best tackles of the year to stop Robbie Fruean from scoring.

Ben Tamiefuna ended his rugby career in New Zealand with a yellow card and it nearly came back to cost Waikato. The prop will now apply his trade in France for Racing Metro.

Young Waikato winger Jordan Trainor showed signs of a bright future ahead on debut, playing a part in two of Weber’s tries.

Waikato will reflect on a difficult season knowing that much potential was lost, but have ended in the best possible way, and now begin their tenth reign as holders of the Ranfurly Shield.