The final seeding order of the tightly contested New Zealand Conference is still anybody’s guess just four rounds shy of the 2017 Investec Super Rugby playoffs. What can be guaranteed however, is that come 7.35pm on Friday evening, two highly motivated and courageous kiwi sides will throw everything at each other in the hopes of securing a win which could prove season-defining.

Gallagher Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has made three changes to the starting fifteen who narrowly lost 31-24 to the BNZ Crusaders in Fiji last Friday. There’s just one change to the forward pack with relentless number 8 Liam Messam contributing 156 caps of experience to the starting lineup. 

The remaining two changes effect the backline, with Johnny Faauli returning to the playing 23 to start at second five-eighth. The potent mid-fielder reunites with Anton Lienert-Brown who moves to centre for Fridays evening’s unmissable derby match.

The Gallagher Chiefs team to play the Blues at 7.35pm this Friday 26 May at Eden Park:

1.            Kane Hames (19)

2.            Nathan Harris (25)

3.            Nepo Laulala (8)

4.            Dominic Bird (22)

5.            Brodie Retallick (81)

6.            Mitchell Brown (11)

7.            Sam Cane (co-captain) (90)

8.            Liam Messam (156)

9.            Tawera Kerr-Barlow (77)

10.         Aaron Cruden (co-captain) (83)

11.         James Lowe (47)

12.         Johnny Faauli (4)

13.         Anton Lienert-Brown (35)

14.         Tim Nanai-Williams (81)

15.         Damian McKenzie (44)    

RESERVES:

16.         Hika Elliot (115)

17.         Siegfried Fisi’ihoi (21)

18.         Atu Moli (21)

19.         Taleni Seu (28)

20.         Lachlan Boshier (13)

21.         Jonathan Taumateine (4)

22.         Solomon Alaimalo (4)

23.         Shaun Stevenson (18)

() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets

Unavailable for selection: Brad Weber, Mitchell Graham, Glen Fisiiahi, Liam Polwart, Charlie Ngatai, Sam McNicol, Stephen Donald and Toni Pulu. 

The Gallagher Chiefs return to FMG Stadium Waikato to take on the Waratahs at the earlier kickoff time of 5.05pm next Saturday 3 June. Rising Chiefs region rugby talent will be on show in the curtain raiser, with Hamilton Boys High School playing Rotorua Boys High School in the University of Waikato Chiefs Cup Final. Tickets to next Saturday’s Round 15 fixture between the Gallagher Chiefs and the Waratahs can be purchased from ticketdirect.co.nz or 0800 4 CHIEFS.

The Gallagher Chiefs have suffered their second loss of the season, going down to the unbeaten Crusaders 31-24 in a thrilling top of the table contest at ANZ Stadium in Suva, Fiji.

Despite holding a four-point halftime lead, and outscoring the Crusaders four tries to three, the Gallagher Chiefs were unable to hang on as the Crusaders finished strongly to claim the four competition points and extend their lead at the top of the Super Rugby standings.

The match began at a rapid pace with several long passages of play, before back to back Crusaders penalties saw them take an early lead with three points from the boot of Richie Mo’unga.

Some good kick chase pressure then caught the Gallagher Chiefs offside and Mo’unga made no mistake with another simple shot at goal for a 6-0 lead after the opening 15 minutes.

After slowly building momentum the Gallagher Chiefs then broke clear for a superb opening try. Aaron Cruden burst through a gap, thanks to a nice inside pass from Anton Lienert-Brown, and drew the fullback with a wide pass to Tim Nanai-Williams who finished well in the right-hand corner.

Just minutes later the Gallagher Chiefs were in again with an opportunistic try to wing James Lowe. Cruden found space with a well-placed left foot clearing kick and a wicked bounce allowed Lowe to pressure the defence before kicking ahead and diving on the loose ball.

The double strike gave the Gallagher Chiefs a four-point lead but that didn’t last long as the Crusaders hit back quickly with their first try of the evening. Centre Jack Goodhue made a break up the middle before popping a pass off the ground for Heiden Bedwell-Curtis to race clear and score.

Damian McKenzie then sparked the Gallagher Chiefs onto attack once more and a few phases later prop Kane Hames crashed his way over the line for the fourth try in a frantic ten minutes of action.

As halftime approached the Crusaders broke out from inside their own half and went desperately close to getting their second try. The Gallagher Chiefs initially scrambled well on defence to keep them out and then won a free kick off a Crusaders scrum which allowed them to clear to touch and go into the break 17-13 in front.

The halftime lead only lasted five minutes as the Crusaders struck early. Mo’unga launched a counter attack, reading a Cruden chip kick before sending the ball out wide, and a sweeping movement from their own 22 ended in a dazzling try to fullback David Havili.

Some good continuity with ball in hand saw the Gallagher Chiefs work their way into the Crusaders half, eventually winning a penalty but Cruden’s kick to retake the lead drifted wide.

Just before the 60-minute mark a brilliant long range attack from the Crusaders saw them extend their lead. It was Mo’unga again to the fore, making a clean break up the middle with replacement hooker Ben Funnell on hand to pick up and score a crucial try.

Mo’unga continued his impressive night by slotting the sideline conversion and opening up an eight-point gap.

Errors began to creep into the Gallagher Chiefs game in the final quarter as they tried to work their way back, and a lift in intensity on defence from the Crusaders kept them pinned in their own half.

Three more points from Mo’unga with just over 10 minutes remaining extended the lead to 11 before the Gallagher Chiefs finally sprung into life again. From the back of a five metre scrum Cruden worked his way into space to score handy to the posts with McKenzie adding the extras for their first points of the second half.

A fourth Mo’unga penalty pushed the Crusaders’ lead out to seven but the Gallagher Chiefs swiftly moved back downfield for one last crack. However, consecutive lineouts were disrupted and possession was lost with the Chiefs having to settle with just a losing bonus point to show from their trip to Fiji.

Gallagher Chiefs 24 (Tim Nanai-Williams, James Lowe, Kane Hames, Aaron Cruden tries; Cruden con, Damian McKenzie con) Crusaders 31 (Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, David Havili, Ben Funnell tries; Richie Mo’unga 2 cons, 4 pens) HT: 17-13.

Next up for the Gallagher Chiefs is a trip to Eden Park for a local derby against the Blues next Friday night (26 May, kick off 7.35pm).

The balmy climate of Suva, Fiji is an apt venue for this Friday evenings Round 13 Investec Super Rugby fixture between the Gallagher Chiefs and the BNZ Crusaders. It was at the same ANZ Stadium in Suva that these top two-placed New Zealand teams last met, with the Gallagher Chiefs fending off their southern foes 23-13 in a spirited contest in July 2016.

Gallagher Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has named a formidable line-up to face the Crusaders for the first time this season. It features five changes to the starting fifteen that defeated the Reds 46-17 in New Plymouth in Round 11.

There’s just one change in the forwards with Nathan Harris making his first start of the year at hooker. 25-year-old Harris, who re-signed this week with the Gallagher Chiefs until 2019, made a welcome return to Super Rugby two weeks ago following a long injury layoff.

There are four changes to the backs with co-captain Aaron Cruden returning to start at first five-eighth. Anton Lienert-Brown, who also re-signed with the Chiefs this week, moves to second five-eighth from centre. Sam McNicol is promoted from the bench to start in jersey 13 and Tim Nanai-Williams has fully recovered from a shoulder injury sustained against the Hurricanes in Round 3 to start on the right wing. 

The Gallagher Chiefs team to play the BNZ Crusaders at 7.35pm this Friday 19 May is:

1.            Kane Hames (18)

2.            Nathan Harris (24)

3.            Nepo Laulala (7)

4.            Dominic Bird (21)

5.            Brodie Retallick (80)

6.            Mitchell Brown (10)

7.            Sam Cane (co-captain) (89)

8.            Michael Leitch (30)

9.            Tawera Kerr-Barlow (76)

10.          Aaron Cruden (co-captain) (82)

11.          James Lowe (46)

12.          Anton Lienert-Brown (34)

13.          Sam McNicol (16)

14.          Tim Nanai-Williams

15.          Damian McKenzie (43)  

RESERVES:

16.          Hika Elliot (114)

17.          Siegfried Fisi’ihoi (20)

18.          Atu Moli (20)

19.          Taleni Seu (27)

20.          Liam Messam (155)

21.          Jonathan Taumateine (4)

22.          Stephen Donald (98)

23.          Shaun Stevenson (17)

() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets

Unavailable for selection: Brad Weber, Mitchell Graham, Glen Fisiiahi, Liam Polwart, Toni Pulu and Charlie Ngatai.

Rugby’s elite are joining forces to deliver a once in a lifetime Hamilton experience on the eve of the British & Irish Lions match against the Gallagher Chiefs. To celebrate this historic match in the DHL New Zealand Lions Series 2017, the Chiefs Rugby Club have partnered with All Blacks Hospitality and the Hamilton City Council to stage a special Chiefs Gala Dinner on June 19, featuring a lineup of world-class coaches and players both past and present.

Hamilton-born British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland will join Gallagher Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie for candid question and answer session hosted by Scotty Stevenson. Other notable speakers include former All Blacks Grant Fox and Mils Muliaina, and British & Irish Lions legends Gavin Hastings and Will Greenwood.

Chiefs Rugby Club CEO Andrew Flexman said: “I am thrilled that the Chiefs Rugby Club, alongside its event partners, is able to mark this historic occasion with an event of this quality. The combination of the Gallagher Chiefs v British and Irish Lions match and the array of activities happening around the game will make for a truly special time for the people of our region. We hope that the Chiefs Gala Dinner will add to the rich tapestry of British and Irish Lions tours.”          

The prestigious event also doubles as a philanthropic opportunity for attendees, with the Chiefs Gala Dinner to raise funds for the Ronald McDonald House charity through live and silent auctions on behalf of the Harcourts Foundation.

As well as reliving famous British & Irish Lions tour moments through this array of fantastic speakers, attendees will also enjoy a continuous premium food and beverage service to their tables throughout the evening.

Packages for the Chiefs Gala Dinner start from just $299+ GST per person. For further information and to secure your seats to this unforgettable evening of rugby visit: http://bit.ly/2pLTfDT

For event enquiries please contact:

Kate Shirtcliff

Chiefs Sponsorship Manager

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M: 021 224 7898