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Chiefs managed to resist a strong Force comeback for narrow win
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The Chiefs resisted a strong second-half display from the Western Force to secure a 22-21 victory in Hamilton on Friday.
The Force were quickest out of the blocks as Patrick Dellit chased his own kick through the Chiefs defence in the second minute to give the visitors an early lead.
Jayden Hayward missed the conversion before entering a kicking duel with Aaron Cruden, a last-minute addition to the Chiefs starting XV with Gareth Anscombe forced to withdraw before kick-off.
Cruden successfully kicked his first penalty attempt before adding a conversion to his tally when Brodie Retallick displayed some impressive handling skills, opening the door for Lelia Masaga to run in the first Chiefs try and take the lead.
Hayward responded with two penalties in five minutes for the Force but the Chiefs remained in command as fly-half Cruden added three more penalties to give the defending Super Rugby champions a 19-11 lead at the interval.
Force fought their way back into the encounter soon after the restart as Nick Cummins made territory before a series of passes found Dellit on the left wing to cross over for his second try of the night leaving the Australians just one point behind the Chiefs.
The visitors' resilience was tested in the middle of the second period with the Chiefs taking residence in the Force 22 for 10 minutes before Liam Messam crossed the line, only to be denied by the television match official with 10 minutes left on the clock.
Despite being reduced to 14 men with Kieran Longbottom in the sin-bin, Force continued to threaten a faltering Chiefs defence as a Hayward penalty kick fell just short from inside his own half.
One final charge at the Chiefs defence was thwarted as the Force ran out of time with the siren sounding as the New Zealanders held out to take the spoils and stay in touching distance with the head of the table.
The marginal victory leaves just a single point between the Chiefs and Super Rugby leaders Brumbies who automatically earn four points this weekend with a bye round.Super 15. Click here to bet.