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Chiefs score 6 tries to beat Lions 38-8 in Super Rugby, reviving title defence

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HAMILTON, New Zealand - The Chiefs scored three tries in a six-minute spell on either side of halftime to secure a bonus point from a 38-8 win over South Africa's Lions in Super Rugby on Saturday, breathing new life into their title defence.

Centre Charlie Ngatai, returning from injury, created one try and scored another in a pivotal three-minute period leading into the break, then prop Paulasi Manu scored three minutes after the resumption to seal a bonus point and the win.

Flyhalf Gareth Anscombe scored the first of the Chiefs' tries while centre Bundee Aki and fullback Tim Nanai-Williams scored the fifth and sixth against tiring opposition in the last eight minutes as the two-time defending champions roused themselves from a mid-season form slump.

The Chiefs had three losses, two draws and a narrow win over the lowly Melbourne Rebels in their previous six games, falling out of the lead in the New Zealand conference. Their last two matches resulted in a narrow loss at home to the Crusaders and a heavy loss away to the ACT Brumbies and they faced a further retreat from title contention if they lost again on Saturday.

But the Hamilton-based side found a way to overcome the complete failure of their set piece — a ruined scrum and dysfunctional lineout — to win for the fifth time in 10 games and to return to the top six. They have lacked a sound forward platform throughout the season but their determination in the loose and their try-scoring ability — they now have 31 tries from 10 matches — enabled them to win in spite of that disadvantage.

"Anyone who thinks the Lions are easy is wrong. They're a good side," Chiefs captain Liam Messam said. "I'm really proud of the boys. We had our backs against the wall and we came out and produced a performance.

"It's probably not the flashiest performance but it's a win."

Anscombe had the first try of the match in the 22nd minute and with the late tries to Latimer and Ngatai the Chiefs took a 19-3 lead to halftime. Manu's try immediately after halftime was critical, sealing the four-try bonus point and closing down any chance of a Lions' rally.

The Johannesburg-based Lions did score the next try through winger Courtnall Skosan but the Chiefs had the cushion of a big lead and finished strongly with tries to Aki and Nanai-Williams.

The Chiefs' win completed a clean sweep of home victories for New Zealand teams this round after the Blues win over the Queensland Reds and the Crusaders' over the ACT Brumbies.

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Chiefs 38 (Gareth Anscombe, Tanerau Latimer, Charlie Ngatai, Pauliasi Manu, Bundee Aki, Tim Nanai-Williams tries; Gareth Anscombe 3 conversions; Andrew Horrell conversion), Lions 8 (Courtnall Skosan try; Elton Jantjies penalty). HT: 19-3.

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