Crusaders beat Chiefs 19-34 after a physical New Zealand Super Rugby Pacific derby at FMG Stadium, Hamilton.
The Crusaders avenged their Super Rugby Pacific round four 24-21 defeat to the Chiefs with a trademark second-half performance that is the seal of this illustrious franchise.
Clayton McMillan – missing due to self-isolating because of Covid – had seen his side beat the Super Rugby Aotearoa champions in their last two encounters, but it was not to this time.
The 10-time Super Rugby champions scored five tries to three as they suffocated the Chiefs before striking the killer blow midway through the second stanza.
Sevu Reece and Leicester Fainga’anuku scored in quick succession to snuff out any hope of an unlikely comeback by the hosts.
Cullen Grace, Will Jordan, and Codie Taylor also scored for the visitors.
Alex Nankivell shone for the Chiefs. The 25-year-old notched a double and assisted Cortez-Lee Ratima’s late try, but his centre’s heroics came to nought.
Nankivell carried for 75 metres on 12 runs while beating eight defenders with two clean breaks to go with his two-for and assist (all most by any Chiefs’ player).
He also made four tackles in the midfield in a stunning one-man show on the North Island.
Gatland kicked two conversions for the home side. Richie Mo’unga added a penalty and three conversions from the tee for nine points of his own.
David Havili, playing in his 100th Super Rugby match, and Jordan starred for the Saders. Havili set up Jordan and Reece’s scores.
Reece overtook the great Dan Carter in the Crusaders’ all-time try scorer’s list when he dotted down for his 37th Super Rugby five-pointer.
Jordan, on the other hand, had another remarkable game from fullback. The 24-year-old playmaker made 143 metres on 15 carries, won three turnovers while beating four defenders.
He also made five tackles to go with his try to cap another fantastic display.
The win moves Scott Robertson’s team into second place on the Super Rugby Pacific log, but the Queensland Reds and NSW Waratahs are yet to play.
Crusaders dominate the first-half, but only take a slender three-point lead into the shed after a late Nankivill score
The Crusaders led 15-12 at the break after both teams scored two tries apiece in an enthralling clash.
Nankivell bagged a first-half brace for the Chiefs, while Grace and Jordan crossed for the Crusaders.
Jordan’s 18th-minute try was his seventh Super Rugby try in seven games versus the men from the Waikato, his eighth in total in this fixture.
Both kickers missed one conversion, but Mo’unga’s penalty on the half-hour was the difference.
Robertson’s charges put the game to bed with two converted tries in the third quarter to make it 29-12 to the visitors.
Grace thought he had a brace, but the TMO chalked off his try for a forward pass in the build-up.
It did not matter because the Saders struck twice in five minutes to take the game away from the home team.
Reece crossed under the sticks first before Fainga’anuku, playing in the midfield, barged his way under the posts on the hour mark.
Mo’unga had two easy conversions to open up a hefty 17-point advantage with 20 to play.
Jordan, who was immense again, almost had another try; however, his kick-chase rolled over the dead-ball line.
Ratima’s maiden Super Rugby try with 10 minutes remaining, cut the gap to 10 after the conversion.
There would be no heroic fightback because Taylor flopped over after a powerful driving maul to complete the victory.
Final Score: Chiefs 19 (12) Crusaders 34 (15)
Tries – Nankivell (2), Ratima
Con – Gatland (2)
Tries – Grace, Jordan, Reece, Fainga’anuku, Taylor
Pen – Mo’unga
Con – Mo’unga (3)
Referee: James Doleman
Assistant Ref 1: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 2: Dan Waenga
TMO: Chris Hart
Chiefs: 15 Kaleb Trask, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Alex Nankivell, 12 Quinn Tupaea, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Brad Weber (co-captain), 8 Samipeni Finau, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Tupou Vaa’i, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Josh Lord, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Ollie Norris
Replacements: 16 Tyrone Thompson, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 20 Kaylum Boshier, 21 Mitch Jacobson, 22 Cortez-Lee Ratima, 23 Josh Ioane
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Chay Fihaki, 13 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 12 David Havili, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Oli Jager, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Finlay Brewis
Replacements: 16 Fletcher Newell, 17 George Bower, 18 Tamaiti Williams, 19 Mitch Dunshea, 20 Corey Kellow, 21 Mitch Drummond, 22 Fergus Burke, 23 Sevu Reece