The Chiefs on Saturday night defeated the Sharks 37-6 to become the third New Zealand Conference team to win a Super Rugby Championship, and the sixth franchise overall to lift the trophy since the tournament began in 1996.
It was the 13th time the home team had won the Super Rugby Final, and was the Chiefs second such appearance in this match after reaching the decider in 2009, which they lost to the Bulls.
That result was lay to rest with the Chiefs 31 point win, the third biggest victory in a Super Rugby Final after the Bulls win in 2009 (v Chiefs) and the Blues triumph in 1996 (v Sharks).
Becoming the sixth Super Rugby champion puts the Chiefs into elite company alongside the Crusaders, Bulls, Blues, Brumbies and Reds – while the victory is a turnaround from the fact that the Chiefs took nine years to reach their first Super Rugby Finals Series, a current record among franchises.
For the Chiefs coaching team, it represented some remarkable achievements.
Head coach Dave Rennie became just the third Super Rugby debutant coach (after Sir Graham Henry in 1996 and Robbie Deans in 2000) to win the championship, while assistant coach Wayne Smith became the first man in history to win Super Rugby titles with more than one franchise while working within the coaching.
For the players the result comes after the Chiefs named one of the youngest squads in the tournament at the beginning of the season, with the Waikato based franchise fielding Mahonri Schwalger, Kane Thompson, Aaron Cruden, Sonny Bill Williams and Aaron Cruden as incumbent test players.
Yet as the season progressed the Chiefs grabbed the All Blacks selector’s attention, with Liam Messam returning to international headlines with a powerful performance against Ireland – while Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane and Ben Tameifuna were rewarded with test berths.
First five-eighth Aaron Cruden finished the 2012 season as the highest point’s scorer, with 251 notched for the season, the second highest number of points recorded in a campaign after Morne Steyn recorded 263 for the Bulls in 2010.
The Chiefs also finished with the following newly set season records:
• Most wins in a regular season – TWELVE (Also a NZ Conference record)
• Win streak – NINE (Round two to Round Eleven)
• Home win streak – SIX (Round two to Round Fourteen)
• Most wins at home in a season – EIGHT
• Most points (444) and tries (47) scored during a regular season
Chiefs 2012 Super Rugby campaign
Beat Rebels 36-0 (Geelong)
Beat Highlanders 38-36 (Queenstown)
Lost to Hurricanes 19-23 (Taupo)
R1: lost to Highlanders 19-23 (Hamilton)
R2: beat Blues 29-14 (Hamilton)
R3: beat Crusaders 24-19 (Napier)
R4: beat Brumbies 29-22 (Hamilton)
R6: beat Waratahs 30-13 (Hamilton)
R7: beat Force 20-12 (Perth)
R8: beat Cheetahs 39-33 (Bloemfontein)
R9: beat Sharks 18-12 (Durban)
R10: beat Hurricanes 33-14 (Hamilton)
R11: beat Lions 34-21 (Pukekohe)
R12: lost to Reds 27-42 (Brisbane)
R14: beat Bulls 28-22 (Hamilton)
R15: beat Blues 41-34 (Auckland)
R16: beat Highlanders 27-21 (Dunedin)
R17: lost to Crusaders 21-28 (Hamilton)
R18: lost to Hurricanes 25-28 (Wellington)
Super Rugby Finals Series:
Super Rugby Qualifiers: Bye (virtue of top-two finish)
Super Rugby Semi-Finals: beat Crusaders 20-17 (Hamilton)
Super Rugby Final: beat Sharks 37-6 (Hamilton)
SUPER RUGBY CHAMPIONS ROLL OF HONOUR