Super 15 - Masaga hat-trick takes Chiefs past Kings

Winger Lelia Masaga scored a hat-trick of tries for the champions Waikato Chiefs to help secure a bonus-point 35-24 victory over the Southern Kings in their Super Rugby match on Friday.

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Super Rugby - Masaga worry but Chiefs unchanged for final
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Chiefs wing Lelia Masaga (L)

The Chiefs were always in control of the game against a Kings side who put in plenty of effort but lacked the quality to put the visitors under sustained pressure.

"It was a big battle and we have to give credit to the Kings, they put us under a lot of pressure. We were also a bit frustrated with our execution," Chiefs captain Craig Clarke said in a television interview after the game.

After an even opening 20 minutes the Chiefs began to show their championship quality.

With the scores level at 3-3, Chiefs' flyhalf Aaron Cruden drew the Kings' defence and provided a perfectly timed pass for Masaga to dive over in the corner for the first of his three tries.

Cruden was again involved for the second, combining well with outside centre Tim Nanai-Williams to put Masaga in again. There was a suspicion of a forward pass in the buildup but the third match official confirmed the try.

The score gave the visitors a comfortable 18-6 lead but the Kings hit back on the halftime hooter to reduce the deficit to five.

Masaga was the villain on this occasion, spilling possession and allowing young Kings' speedster Sergeal Petersen to run the length of the field and score.

It was a far from flawless display from the Waikato side who were let down by a number of handling errors but when they did manage to keep ball in hand they were wonderful to watch.

Sam Kane drove just after halftime to extend their lead again, before Masaga completed his hat-trick two minutes later after he was set free on the touchline and raced clear to dot down in the corner for the bonus-point try.

Substitute scrumhalf Gus Pulu spent 10 minutes in the sin bin for a professional foul and the Kings took advantage of their numerical supremacy.

The home side pounded the Chiefs line and number eight Jacques Engelbrecht barged his way over for the try. Two penalties from Kings flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis put the home side within eight points.

The Chiefs began to play a more cautious game and held on to the ball well going into the final few minutes.

Fullback Gareth Anscombe was gifted a penalty chance late on to finish the scoring and send the Chiefs back to New Zealand happy.

"We did well, we just need to hold on to the ball better," stand-in Kings skipper Steven Sykes said. "The most important thing for us is to improve week by week. We gave our backs a bit better ball today and we were better than last week."

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