2017 Super Rugby champions the Crusaders kicked off their title defence with a bonus point 45-23 victory over the Chiefs at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
The Crusaders seven tries to two victory is their third straight win over the Chiefs and their 8th in Christchurch from 11 matches.
The Chiefs made an explosive start and almost scored in the second minute but the Crusaders just managed to scramble and defend their try line.
The Crusaders hit back immediately and in the fourth minute Matt Todd scored for the hosts. Tries from Richie Mo’unga and Jordan Taufua followed for the hosts which kept them in front.
However discipline cost the Crusaders as they lost Richie Mo’unga and Michael Alaalatoa to the sin-bin in the opening half which allowed the Chiefs to catch up on the scoreboard but trail 19-17 at half time.
The Crusaders led the match for all but six minutes after the 56th minute when Damien McKenzie put the visiting side into a 19-20 lead with a penalty kick.
The Crusaders took the lead back with a try by Sam Whitelock and then went further ahead when a penalty try was awarded against the Chiefs who lost Lachlan Boshier to the sin-bin at the same time.
With an extra player on the field the Crusaders picked up two late tries through intercepts as the Chiefs threw caution to the wind in search of points.
The late flurry took the score from 26-23 at 70 minutes to 45-23 after 78 minutes.
The result was not without controversy as the match was balance at 26-23 when the Crusaders were awarded the match turning penalty try after Boshier’s swinging arm tackle which caught Ryan Crotty on the shoulder and then slipped up to his neck.
Match referee Ben O’Keefe acknowledged that Boshier was only trying to tackle Crotty and stop the try but he said that he had no other option than to award the Crusaders a penalty try for a high tackle and to send the Chiefs tackler to the sin-bin.
The three late tries added 19 points to the Crusaders scoreline which gives the appearance of a one sided contest. The reality was quite different as it was a tight contest before the penalty try and could have gone either way.
The Chiefs two tries were both scored in the first half and although they could not cross the line again they kept in touching distance of the Crusaders through Damien McKenzie’s boot until they lost Boshier to the bin.
Next week the Crusaders are at home again in Christchurch with a match against South Africa’s Stormers while the Chiefs travel to Auckland to play the Blues at Eden Park.
Final Score Crusaders 45 (19) Chiefs 23 (17)
Tries – M.Todd, R.Mo’unga, J. Taufua, S.Whitelock, Penalty try, G.Bridge, M.Mataele
Con -R.Mo’unga 3 , D.Havili, Penalty try con
Cards -R.Mo’unga (20th min. yellow), M.Alaalatoa (34th min yellow)
Tries – S.Cane, S.Alaimalo
Pen – D.McKenzie 3
Con – D.McKenzie 2
Cards – L.Boshier 71st min
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Ref 1: Nick Briant (New Zealand),
Assistant Ref 2:James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO : Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)
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.
1. Aidan Ross , 2. Nathan Harris , 3. Nepo Laulala , 4. Brodie Retallick , 5. Dominic Bird , 6. Mitchell Brown , 7. Sam Cane – Captain , 8. Taleni Seu , 9. Brad Weber , 10. Damian McKenzie , 11. Solomon Alaimalo , 12. Johnny Faauli , 13. Anton Lienert-Brown , 14. Shaun Stevenson , 15. Charlie Ngatai (c)
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