Chiefs hold off Crusaders
The Chiefs gave themselves a massive boost with back to back wins as they defeated tournament favourites, the Crusaders 24-19 in Napier on Friday morning.
It was a win that confirmed the Chiefs would challenge for the New Zealand conference title, while the Crusaders have been dealt a massive blow with back to back defeats at this early stage in the competition.
The Chiefs were up for the game from the start, being led by flank Liam Messam and his fellow forwards as they put in several massive hits on the Crusaders forwards to unsettle their fancied opposition.
And it was their ability to score when it mattered, much as they did against the Blues, that helped them to a good victory -- one which will certainly have confounded several predictions and showed how well this Chiefs team has come of age of late.
With some excellent performances by halfbacks Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Aaron Cruden, the Chiefs marshalled themselves through the pressure that inevitably came from the Crusaders, and on the back of their forwards ground out the win in the end.
Both sides started slowly, opening their scoring through the boot, but it was the Chiefs who first put down the marker and crossed the tryline in the 27th minute, thanks to a great linebreak by Sonny Bill Williams, which was eventually forced over the tryline by a bundle of forwards, with Messam coming up with the ball from under the melee.
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The Crusaders had a legitimate gripe shortly afterwards as Andy Ellis was adjudged offside as he intercepted the ball from a scrum, where replays showed that he indeed wasn’t and the try should have stood.
It didn’t and the Crusaders would probably have felt things were going against them at that point, especially as Cruden’s boot saw the Chiefs go into the break with a healthy 16-6 lead.
The Crusaders came right back into it early in the second half as their forwards forced a turnover, then watched as they rumbled it up, with Kieran Reid giving a perfect inside pass to Robbie Freuan to go over and bring them within three of the Chiefs.
The Chiefs took back the initiative after Ellis fluffed the restart, giving the Chiefs an attacking scrum inside the 22, and some deft forward play eventually saw Arizona Taumalolo go over for a TMO confirmed try.
The Crusaders tried their best, but were held out by some stern Chiefs defence. Two penalties by Tyler Bleyendaal got them within striking distance, but Cruden’s penalty a few minutes before the end sealed the famous win for the Chiefs.
Crusaders – Try: Robbie Fruean. Conversion: Tyler Bleyendaal. Penalties: Tyler Bleyendaal(4).
Chiefs –Tries: Liam Messam, Sona Taumalolo. Conversion: Aaron Cruden. Penalties: Aaron Cruden(4).