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Crusaders stun Chiefs to end losing streak

SUPER RUGBY WRAP: Wing Johnny McNicholl grabbed two tries Friday as defending Super Rugby Pacific champions Crusaders snapped a five-game losing streak with a 37-26 home win over the Chiefs to claim their first victory this season.

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The Crusaders outscored the visitors by five tries to four in Christchurch to avenge their 29-33 defeat away to the Chiefs in Hamilton on the opening day of the season.

Having won Super Rugby titles in each of the last seven years under previous head coach Scott Robertson, the Crusaders had started the 2024 campaign under his replacement Rob Penney with five straight losses.

This was a significantly improved display from the hosts, who were disciplined throughout and took their chances in front of a home crowd.

“It’s amazing. The boys fronted up, really lifted from what we have had in the past,” said Crusaders stand-in captain Tom Christie with regular skipper Scott Barrett and his deputy David Havili both injured.

“The shackles were off. This was a step in the right direction,” Christie added, after the Crusaders moved off the bottom of the Super Rugby table.

The hosts flew out of the traps to open an early 12-0 lead with rapid-fire tries by full-back Chay Fihaki and Wales international McNicholl.

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Scrumhalf Noah Hotham darted down the blindside from a breakdown before Fihaki sprinted onto his perfectly-timed chip to open the scoring, then McNicholl crossed untouched after a quick ball from a ruck.

The Chiefs pulled a try back on 17 minutes when they turned over the ball and wing Emoni Narawa took a cut out pass to canter over.

The Crusaders hit back, claiming their third try inside the first 23 minutes when loose forward Cullen Grace crossed out wide.

Flyhalf Riley Hohepa converted from the touchline to put the Crusaders 19-5 up.

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Chiefs playmaker Josh Jacomb found a gap in the defence before prop George Dyer crashed over for a converted try to make it 22-12 at the break after Hohepa had slotted a penalty.

The second-half was more even with both sides scoring two tries.

The Crusaders extended their lead when hooker George Bell hit the gas to beat Jacomb in the corner.

Chiefs centre Anton Lienert-Brown barrelled over for a converted try making it 27-19 with an hour gone.

McNicholl grabbed his second try when he picked off a loose pass by Josh Ioane in midfield to sprint over from 80 metres.

The Chiefs pegged the Crusaders back to 34-26 inside the final ten minutes as scrumhalf Cortez Ratima darted over for a late converted try after fullback Shaun Stevenson chipped the ball behind the defence.

The Crusaders held on as replacement back Rivez Reihana slotted a penalty two minutes from the whistle to seal the win.

Chiefs captain Luke Jacobson rued his side’s defensive errors.

“We probably came out a bit soft in defence, they were able to play the footy they wanted to with some great tempo, credit to them,” he said.

In Australia, Melbourne Rebels have driven another nail into the Waratahss coffin with a spirited 27-21 Super Rugby Pacific derby win in Sydney.

The cash-strapped Rebels, their very existence uncertain beyond 2024 as Rugby Australia mulls the side’s future, rose from the dead on Good Friday to consolidate a top-eight spot with a crucial comeback victory.

Tries in the last 10 minutes from inspirational Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou and winger Filipo Daugunu secured Melbourne a momentous win after the Waratahs looked to have pulled off a vital great escape.

Friday’s scores and scorers:

Crusaders 37-26 Chiefs

The scorers:

For Crusaders:
Tries: Fihaki, McNicholl 2, Grace, Bell
Cons: Hohepa 2, Reihan
Pens: Hohepa, Reihana

For Chiefs:
Tries: Narawa, Dyer, Lienert-Brown, Ratima
Cons: Jacomb Ioane

Teams: 

Crusaders: 15 Chay Fihaki, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 Dallas McLeod, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Riley Hohepa, 9 Mitch Drummond, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Corey Kellow, 5 Jamie Hannah, 4 Quinten Strange, 3 Fletcher Newell, 2 George Bell, 1 George Bower.
Replacements: 16 James Mullen, 17 Kershawl Sykes-Martin, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Dominic Gardiner, 20 Fletcher Anderson, 21 Noah Hotham, 22 Rivez Reihana, 23 Macca Springer.

Chiefs: 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Emoni Narawa, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Quinn Tupaea, 11 Etene Nanai Seturo, 10 Josh Jacomb, 9 Xavier Roe, 8 Luke Jacobson (captain), 7 Kaylum Boshier, 6 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 5 Josh Lord, 4 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 3 George Dyer, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Jared Proffit, 18 Reuben O’Neill, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Simon Parker, 21 Cortez Ratima, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Daniel Rona.

Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: Dan Waenga, Mike Winter

 Waratahs 21-27 Melbourne Rebels 

The scorers:

For Waratahs:
Tries: Swinton, Gleeson, Grant
Cons: Edmed 3

For Melbourne Rebels:
Tries: Anderson, Lancaster, Tupou, Daugunu
Cons: Gordon 2
Pen: Gordon

Teams:

Waratahs: 15 Max Jorgensen, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Izaia Perese, 12 Joey Walton, 11 Dylan Pietsch, 10 Tane Edmed, 9 Jake Gordon (captain), 8 Langi Gleeson, 7 Charlie Gamble, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Hugh Sinclair, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Tom Ross, 2 Mahe Vailanu, 1 Angus Bell.
Replacements: 16 Julian Heaven, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 19 Miles Amatosero, 20 Ned Hanigan, 21 Jack Grant, 22 Will Harrison, 23 Lalakai Foketi.

Melbourne Rebels: 15 Jake Strachan, 14 Lachie Anderson, 13 Filipo Daugunu, 12 David Feliuai, 11 Darby Lancaster, 10 Carter Gordon, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Rob Leota (captain), 7 Josh Kemeny, 6 Tuaina Taii Tualima, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Angelo Smith, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Matt Gibbon.
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Cabous Eloff, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Josh Canham, 20 Maciu Nabolakasi, 21 Vaiolini Ekuasi, 22 James Tuttle, 23 Nick Jooste.

Referee: Angus Mabey
Assistant referees: Marcus Playle, Nick Hogan

*Additional source: AAP 

 

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