Chiefs outlast Crusaders
Chiefs outlast CrusadersSHARE
The Chiefs cemented their place at the top of the Super Rugby standings with a 28-19 win over the Crusaders in Hamilton on Friday.
Wow! What a thrilling game! There was not a skerrick of the game that was not exciting. Everything about it was exciting – even the messy scrum, partly because the outcome of the mess was so uncertain.
Mercifully, there was a good crowd to see all of what happened – 22 187, close to capacity, and they had the delight of seeing their beloved Chiefs consolidate their place at the top of the tree.
It was not a try-feast. That was not needed to make it exciting but their defensive determination did not deter the two teams from attacking, from playing with skilful intensity. It restored your faith in rugby as a game with adventure, vision, skill and cleverness – apart that is from all the qualities of muscle, sinew, bone and heart that a strong body has.
It was a cracking game. Does it happen more often than once in 15 weeks?
The Chiefs won and will be happy; the Crusaders lost and will be disappointed, but one hopes that both teams realise the quality of what they did in the cool Hamilton air.
Dan Carter was playing but Tom Taylor did the Crusaders' kicking, and he did it unerringly. He goaled the first scrum penalty. The scrums went reset, free kick, penalty, collapse, penalty – and that was just the first three scrums. Pauliasi Manu was the first one penalised – 3-0 after five minutes,
A 30-metre penalty by Carter from a few metres in from touch, set the Crusaders attacking, but a knock-on thwarted their attempts. Then it was the Chiefs' turn. They threw into a line-out but the clever Crusaders won their ball, which turned out a bad thing to have done. Carter kick, left-footed, but in nipped Aaron Cruden. He charged the kick down, gathered the ball some 20 metre form the line and scored under the posts – a try which he himself converted – 7-3 to the Chiefs after 12 minutes.
Taylor burst on a break and the Crusaders attacked., A penalty gave them a five-metre line-out but they used their backs off the top. They went right. Kieran Read was close and then Matt Todd surveyed his options, picked up and plunged through Ben Tameifuna to score the try. Now the Crusaders had the lead for the second time in the 18 minutes of the match.
The Crusaders were penalised at a scrum and Cruden goaled – 10-all after 22 minutes.
The Chiefs attacked and it happened again – a try from a charge-down. This time Tom Marshall was the kicker and from his in-goal. Skipper Craig Clarke charged the kick down and grounded it before it could bounce into touch-in-goal.
Both charge-downs – Cruden's and Clarke's – were textbook perfect.
For the second time in the match the Chiefs led, this time 15-10 after 29 minutes.
From a scrum Marshall burst and Taylor carried it on. Tameifuna was penalised at the tackle and Taylor made the half-time score 15-13.
Tameifuna was the only Chief penalised at the four penalties against them in the second half – five in a row, five out of eight over all.
The first one of the second half was for a late, armless charge and Taylor gave his side the lead for the third time – 16-15 after 44 minutes.
The Crusaders won a turnover and Ryan Crotty grubbered. Liam Messam saved but in the process conceded an attacking line-out. The Crusaders mauled, Tameifuna was penalised and Taylor goaled – 19-15 after 48 minutes.
Read did a bit of a Tameifuna. He was penalised twice in quick succession. The first became an attacking line-out, the second three points as Cruden goaled – 19-18 after 51 minutes.
Israel Dagg, again comparatively quiet, grubbered. Read snatched the ball away under the nose of Robbie Robinson and headed for the line. Asaeli Tikoirotuma knocked him down from behind. Read stretched and Bundee Aki tussled to keep the ball off the grass. Aki managed to do so.
That became a five-metre scrum which became a penalty which became a five-metre line-out which became a penalty which became a five-metre line-out, but repetition was shattered when Clarke rose up at the front of the line-out to win the ball. But the Crusaders stayed on the attack as they mauled a line-out, but Andy Ellis knocked on.
After a long while on grim defence, the Chiefs broke out and Tikoirotuma was close as he cut inside on the left wing. They bashed, they knocked on and then they destroyed the Crusader scrum to take a tighthead. On advantage they went wide left and Charlie Ngatai was over to score. The referee referred to the TMO, who saw Aki committing obstruction on Taylor, which became a penalty instead of a try.
But they went back to the tackle penalty and the Chiefs opted for a scrum. They went wide left. Lelia Masaga was thrustful but then they were further left where Aki scored. The Chiefs took the lead back and led 25-19 with 9 minutes to play.
When Crusader handling was faulty, Cruden swooped. He drove them back with a diagonal kick and then where they, time up, were penalised at a tackle, Cruden goaled – 28-19 and the final whistle went.
Man of the Match: So many of the Chiefs were so energetic, but our award goes to Chiefs flyhalf Aaron Cruden, who outperformed his more illustrious compatriot Dan Carter.
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Cruden, Clarke, Aki
Cons: Cruden 2
Pens: Cruden 3
For the Crusaders:
Pens: Taylor 4
Chiefs: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Patrick Osborne, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Matt Vant Leven, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (captain), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Dan Waenga, 22 Lelia Masaga.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Tom Taylor, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell/Laurence Corlett, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Dominic Bird, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Robbie Fruean, 22 Telusa Veianu.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)