Crusaders down Chiefs
Napier - Dan Carter celebrated his new All Blacks contract by kicking 20 points as the Crusaders stifled the Chiefs 25-19 in a Vodacom Super Rugby clash in Napier on Saturday.
The flyhalf, who this week signed a deal to stay with the All Blacks and Crusaders after this year's Rugby World Cup, notched up five penalties, a conversion of Luke Romano's try, a cheeky drop goal as well as the best line break of the game.
The injury-hit Crusaders were upset by the Cheetahs last time out on a bruising tour of South Africa but moved to within six points of the table-topping Reds, who they meet next weekend in Brisbane.
The Chiefs were kept in the game by Stephen Donald's four penalties but only threatened the Crusaders line when it was too late, flanker Liam Messam forcing his way over for a consolation try.
The first 40 minutes were a tight, tense affair with Carter and his sometimes All Blacks understudy Donald slotting two penalties apiece, Carter's second tying the score up at 6-6 with the last kick of the half.
Lock Romano broke the deadlock with a rampaging run soon after the break, coming into the Crusaders back line at an angle and crashing through a couple of Chiefs' tacklers to touch down.
Carter added the conversion and another penalty minutes later to give the Crusaders a 10-point lead which they never looked like relinquishing.
"A few of us were running on empty in that first half," Crusaders skipper Richie McCaw said in a televised interview.
"We knew we had to put them under pressure straight after half time and we got pressure in the first 10 minutes and got the points. From there it felt like we were in control."
The Chiefs lacked the invention to breach the Crusaders defence despite a backline sprinkled with All Blacks, and Carter punished them with his boot every time they infringed.
Donald at least converted Messam's try with the last kick of the game to ensure they got a bonus point but their chances of making the playoffs are slim at best.
"We controlled a lot of the pill in the first half but in the second half we gave a way a few soft penalties and the score got away with us," said skipper Mils Muliaina.
"When the Crusaders have got their tails up it's difficult to get them down."
15 Tom Marshall, 14 Brent Ward, 13 Robbie Fruean,
12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Willie Heinz, 8
Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 George Whitelock, 5 Chris Jack,
4 Luke Romano, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett
16 David Hall, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Brad Thorn, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Steve
Alfeld, 21 Matt Berquist, 22 Tu Umaga-Marshall
Mils Muliaina (captain), 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Richard Kahui, 12
Dwayne Sweeney, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon
Leonard, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Romana Graham, 4
Craig Clarke, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Sona Taumalolo
16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Culum Retallick, 19 Taiasina
Tuifua, 20 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Jackson Willison