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Chiefs start Super Rugby with Crusaders victory

Seta Tamanivalu of the Chiefs in action against the Crusaders

The Chiefs kicked off their 2016 Super Rugby campaign with a tough 21-27 victory over the Crusaders in Christchurch.

The victory is the Chiefs third in succession over the Crusaders and their sixth in seven matches against the Christchurch side.

It is also the fourth time in a row that the Chiefs have beaten the Crusaders in Christchurch.

The Chiefs also outscored the Crusaders by four tries to two but as neither side scored three more tries than the other no bonus points were awarded for tries.

The Chiefs victory over the Crusaders was sealed two minutes from full time when Sam Cane was driven over for the Chiefs fourth try.

The lead changed six times in the match, with the Crusaders leading 21-15 before the Chiefs finished strongest and notched up 12 points in the final 15 minutes.

The visitors had trailed 8-13 at half-time but had always looked dangerous with Aaron Cruden orchestrating a rapid running game which repeatedly stretched the Crusaders defence.

The Crusaders feasted off the power of their forwards and a preference for a kicking game, with new face Richie Mo’unga and and old-hand Andy Ellis finding space behind the Chiefs defences.

As the Crusaders start a new era without Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, and with McCaw’s All Blacks’ understudy Cane leading the Chiefs, the Crusaders went into their opening match with a big question mark over their prospects.

A 74-7 hiding by the Wellington Hurricanes in the pre-season did not help their reputation either.

But 21-year-old Mo’unga stepped up at fly-half, and with the comfort of riding behind a superior forward pack he capably steered the Crusaders around the park.

He scored all their first half points with two penalties and, when the Chiefs sneaked in front 8-6, Mo’unga scored and converted from a Crusaders’ tighthead when they demolished a Chiefs’ scrum.

The Chief’s first half points came from a long-range Damian McKenzie penalty and a try to Shaun Stevenson who ripped the ball off David Havili when the Crusaders fullback tried to run his way out of trouble on his own line.

The Chiefs exerted more control as soon as the second half began with Seta Tamanivalu regaining the lead, latching on to an inside pass from Tawera Kerr-Barlow and just managing to reach out to the line as he was swamped by the Crusaders defence.

A smart back-of-the-hand pass by Andy Ellis set up another Crusaders foray deep into Chiefs territory with David Havili scoring wide out.

Mo’unga missed the conversion but landed a third penalty soon after to have the Crusaders six points clear before the Chiefs, looking to rediscover their championship form of 2012 and 2013, mounted a big finish.

Charlie Ngatai and Anton Lienert-Brown split the Crusaders defence to set up McKenzie for a try which he also converted and the Chiefs were again in front 22-21.

With time almost up and the Crusaders probing away at the Chiefs’ line in search of a matchwinning try they turned the ball over allowing the Chiefs to sweep down field.

From a penalty close to the line they opted for a lineout with Cane driving over to settle the outcome.

Final Score Crusaders 21 (13) Chiefs 27 (8)

Scorers

Crusaders
Tries -R. Mo’unga, D. Havili
Pen -R. Mo’unga 3
Con -R. Mo’unga
Drop –
Cards –

Chiefs
Tries -S.Stevenson, S. Tamanivalu, D.McKenzie, S.Cane
Pen – D.McKenzie
Con -D.McKenzie 2
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Chris Pollock
Assistant Ref 1:Jamie Nutbrown
Assistant Ref 2:Kane McBride
TMO :Glenn Newman

Teams

Crusaders

1. Joe Moody , 2. Codie Taylor , 3. Owen Franks , 4. Scott Barrett , 5. Samuel Whitelock (C) , 6. Jordan Taufua , 7. Tim Boys , 8. Kieran Read , 9. Andy Ellis , 10. Richie Mo’unga , 11. Nemani Nadolo ,12. Kieron Fonotia , 13. Sean Wainui , 14. Jone Macilai , 15. David Havili

Replacements : Ben Funnell , Wyatt Crockett ,Mike Alaalatoa ,Jimmy Tupou , Reed Prinsep , Leon Fukofuka , Ben Volavola ,Johnny McNicholl

Chiefs

1. Pauliasi Manu , 2. Rhys Marshall , 3. Hiroshi Yamashita** , 4. Michael Allardice , 5. Brodie Retallick , 6. Taleni Seu** , 7. Sam Cane co-captain , 8. Tom Sanders** , 9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow , 10. Aaron Cruden co-captain , 11. James Lowe , 12. Charlie Ngatai , 13. Seta Tamanivalu , 14. Shaun Stevenson** , 15. Damian McKenzie

Replacements : 16. Nathan Harris , 17. Mitchell Graham , 18. Siate Tokolahi , 19. Maama Vaipulu , 20. Johan Bardoul , 21. Brad Weber , 22. Anton Lienert-Brown , 23. Latu Vaeno**

**denotes Super Rugby debutant