Richie Mo’unga of the Crusaders
Hannah Peters/Getty Images
The Crusaders bounced back from a shock loss last week with a ruthless 32-19 victory over the Chiefs in Super Rugby Aotearoa Saturday to be on the verge of sealing the title.
Poor discipline by the Crusaders allowed the Chiefs to stay in touch with a string of penalties in the first 60 minutes.
But as they so often do, the Crusaders pulled away in the final quarter, although with a question mark over one of their late tries.
The Super Rugby champions for the past three seasons until the Covid-19 pandemic brought this year’s competition to a halt, they need only one more win with two games to play to claim the New Zealand domestic title.
A week ago, when their four-year unbeaten run at home was snapped by the Wellington Hurricanes, there were questions about how the Crusaders would handle defeat.
“We had a real honest review, looked in the mirror and said we didn’t front up last week and knew what we were coming up here for,” captain Codie Taylor said.
“I’m just really proud we came up here and put on a good show. It was a hell of an arm wrestle and a couple opportunities we took and that’s what it’s about.”
While the Crusaders have played six and won five, the Chiefs have played seven and lost the lot.
“It hurts,” captain Sam Cane said, listing a yellow card just before half-time and a disputed second half try as key moments.
“We’ll look at those two moments and how we can better, but credit to the Crusaders, it was a tough battle.”
The Crusaders outscored the Chiefs five tries to one, but they conceded 13 penalties with Damian McKenzie converting four to keep the Chiefs in touch for 60 minutes.
Tom Sanders and Will Jordan scored the first two tries as the Crusaders raced to a 12-0 lead.
The Chiefs opened their account by targeting a Crusaders strength when they opted for a scrum when awarded a penalty eight metres from the line.
They held their own against the powerful Crusaders pack and Lachlan Boshier burrowed over from close range.
A minute from half-time, Chiefs wing Shaun Stevenson was yellow-carded and from the resulting penalty the Crusaders mounted a lineout drive producing a try to Taylor.
McKenzie landed three penalties to one by Richie Mo’unga in the third quarter as the Chiefs narrowed the margin to 19-20.
But with 20 minutes remaining the Crusaders pulled away.
After several replays the television match official approved a try to Sevu Reece, despite Chiefs’ protestations there had been a knock on, and then Leicester Fainga’anuku touched down to seal the outcome.
Tries: Lachlan Boshier
Conversions: Damian McKenzie
Penalties: McKenzie (4)
Tries: Tom Sanders, Will Jordan, Codie Taylor, Sevu Reece, Leicester Faingaanuku
Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (2)
15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Fetuli Paea, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Tom Sanders, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Sione Havili, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor (captain), 1 George Bower
Substitutes: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Isi Tu’ungafasi, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Billy Harmon, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Leicester Fainga’anuku
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Sean Wainui, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Tupou Vaa’i, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Bradley Slater, 1 Reuben O’Neill
Substitutes: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 20 Simon Parker, 21 Lisati Milo-Harris, 22 Kaleb Trask, 23 Quinn Tupaea