Late blitz as Crusaders blow Chiefs away
The Chiefs held a one-point (20-19) lead on the hour mark, before the Crusaders clicked into overdrive – running away to 45-23 win in Christchurch on Saturday.
The scoreline perhaps does not reflect the brutal nature of the contest – which saw three players being yellow carded.
And despite two of the four late tries being intercept scores, the Crusaders will celebrate a successful start to the defence of the title as Super Rugby champions.
There were nine tries scored in the helter-skelter, but error-strewn encounter – seven of them to the Crusaders, who were also hit with two yellow cards leaving captain Sam Whitelock unimpressed with their overall effort.
"It's very, very tough when you're down to 14 men for periods. We gave away too many penalties," he said.
Early tries to Matt Todd, Richie Mo'unga and Jordan Taufua saw the Crusaders race to a 19-3 lead before Mo'unga and Michael Alaalatoa were sin-binned which helped the Chiefs work their way into the game and close within two points by half-time.
A Damian McKenzie penalty 15 minutes into the second half put the Chiefs in front leading to a frantic finish in which Whitelock scored to regain the lead for the Crusaders before another McKenzie penalty narrowed the gap to three points.
But what shaped as a tense finish was blown apart when Lachlan Boshier felled Crusaders centre Ryan Crotty with a head-high tackle as he was diving for the line earning the Crusaders a seven-point penalty try.
In a frantic effort to close the gap, the Chiefs conceded intercept tries to George Bridge and Manasa Mataele in the closing minutes.
"The scoreboard does not reflect the battle that it was," said Chiefs skipper Sam Cane.
"We were beaten to the punch in the first 20 minutes, but to our credit, we pulled ourselves back into it."
Man of the match: There was Charlie Ngatai, Damian McKenzie, Sam Cane and Brodie Retallick – McKenzie, despite not being flawless, showing all the attributes needed to become a world-class flyhalf. For the Crusaders you can look to the usual suspects – Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Richie Mo'unga, Jordan Taufua, Matt Todd, Samuel Whitelock (captain), Luke Romano and Codie Taylor. Our award goes to Crusaders flank Matt Todd – for his hard work at the breakdown and on defence.
For the Crusaders:
Tries: Todd, Mo'unga, Taufua, Whitelock, Penalty try, Bridge, Mataele
Cons: Mo'unga 3, Havili, penalty try dies not require a conversion (seven-point try)
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Cane, Alaimalo
Cons: McKenzie 2
Pens: McKenzie 3
Yellow cards: Richie Mo'unga (Crusaders, 20 – cynical foul, plating the ball on ground five metres from his own tryline), Michael Alaalatoa (Crusaders, 35 – foul play, swinging arm to the head), Lachlan Boshier (Chiefs, 71 – foul play, high tackle)
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Peter Samu, 5 Samuel Whitelock (captain), 4 Luke Romano, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Chris King, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Billy Harmon, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Manasa Mataele.
Chiefs: 15 Charlie Ngatai (captain), 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Johnny Faauli, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Taleni Seu, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Atunaisa Moli, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Liam Messam, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Sean Wainui.
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)