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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Crusaders down Chiefs

The Crusaders kept up their incredible unbeaten run in this year’s Vodacom Super Rugby tournament with a pulsating 31-24 win over the Chiefs in Suva, Fiji on Friday.

Scott Robertson’s side moved 11 points clear at the top of the New Zealand conference and remain favourites to claim top spot overall after a flawless season where they have dominated everywhere and subdued all challengers.

And on a festive night in the Fijian capital, the Crusaders started slowly and were behind for long periods of the first half, but turned it on in the second half to eventually win in an easier manner than the scoreline suggests.

The game, however, was a great advertisement for the tournament and would have won many over on the island for the pure quality as the teams scored four tries apiece.

The Chiefs, by getting a losing bonus point, sit on 43 points – ironically more than double the top Australian side – the Brumbies, who only have 19 points but would qualify for a home playoff spot ahead of them.

Still, the quality of the action was perfect on a balmy night where the locals crammed into the local ANZ Stadium to watch the fireworks.

The Crusaders racked up an early 6-0 lead through penalties by the time the Chiefs – who were technically playing at home – tuned on the pace to score two quick tries and take the lead.

The first came through some superb work by Anton Lienert-Brown, who took a poor pass off the floor and flipped it on his knees inside to a flying Aaron Cruden, with the flyhalf slicing his way through the defensive line. Cruden offloaded to Tim Nanai-Williams, who stepped in and then out to beat the last defenders and go in at the corner.

Six minutes later it was Keith Lowe who toed a ball forward and chased down, waiting patiently for the bounce to suit him as the Crusaders defenders overran the ball, before pouncing to score.

The double blow did little to rattle the Crusaders, who hit back two minutes later, as Jack Goodhue sliced through a hole which looked like obstruction, before offloading to Heiden Bedwell-Curtis to score.

Undeterred, the Chiefs struck another blow in a move again started by Damian McKenzie in which Cruden played a crucial part. After making it to the five metre line, it was left to Kane Hames to score and send the Chiefs into halftime, ahead with three tries to one.

But the early second half belonged to the Crusaders, as they hit back and hit back hard.

The first try to fullback David Havili came from a turnover and a long-range counter-attack, with the fullback being the last man to get the ball in a team effort.

On the hour mark, Richie Mo’unga took a beautiful break and carried the ball 20 metres, before being hauled in and his forwards go involved. It wasn’t long afterwards that Ben Funnell went over to extend the Crusaders lead.

Mo’unga added another three points with the boot as the Chiefs started becoming desperate and the Crusaders pressed their advantage home.

But a beautiful individual break by Cruden brought his side back into the match, scoring a lovely try to set up a tense last 10 minutes.

The Crusaders added another penalty to extend their lead to seven and then held out with some great defence as the Chiefs messed up two attacking line-outs in the dying minutes.

From a South African and Lions point of view, the result should ideally have been different, but for the Crusaders, and the form they are currently in, it will be tough for any team to stop them right now.


Chiefs – tries: Tim Nanai-Williams, James Lowe, Kane Hames, Aaron Cruden. Conversions: Cruden, Damian McKenzie.

Crusaders – tries: Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, David Havili (2), Ben Funnell. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (2). Penalties: Mo’unga (4)


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