Christchurch - All Black captain Kieran Read scored two tries and flyhalf Dan Carter kicked 18 points, surpassing 1 500 points in Super Rugby, as the Crusaders took a vital bonus point from a 43-15 win over defending champions, the Chiefs, on Friday.
The Crusaders' win, and the five championship points they took from a pivotal match, sealed their bid for a playoffs place and kept alive their ambitious challenge to the Chiefs' first place in the New Zealand conference.
The Hamilton-based Chiefs started the match 10 points ahead of the Crusaders with two regular season rounds remaining but could now be ousted from first place in New Zealand if they fail to take a point from next weekend's match against the Auckland-based Blues.VIDEO: Crusaders v Chiefs, highlights
The result will also be welcomed by the Bulls, who can now go to the top of the overall table
if they beat the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. The men from Pretoria are on 59 points, two behind the log-leading Chiefs.
A slew of penalties against the Chiefs for breakdown infringements and Read's deeply contentious first try helped the Crusaders take a 19-8 lead to half-time after a relatively competitive first spell.
All Black fullback Israel Dagg scored a try immediately after half-time and made Read's second try three minutes later to turn what might have been a close match into a rout for the Crusaders. Dagg's involvement ensured the Crusaders took the four-try bonus point they needed to keep their hopes alive of winning the conference.
The Chiefs were put on the back foot in the first half when referee Jonathan White found persistent fault with their usually adept play in contact and in the loose. Carter kicked four penalties to put the Crusaders ahead 12-3 before Read scored next to the posts on the stroke of half-time.
Read dashed between the posts from an attacking scrum but appeared to have been held up and White referred the decision on the try to the television official. Although repeated replays suggested Read failed to ground the ball, the television referee allowed the try and the Crusaders built a decisive half-time lead.
Dagg dashed into the backline from fullback to score a try immediately after the break then made what seemed a forward pass to Read to give the Crusaders' their third try and a crushing 31-8 lead after 46 minutes.
Centre Ryan Crotty dived over in the right-hand corner in the 57th minute to secure the vital bonus point. Replacement Tyler Bleyendaal added the Crusaders' fifth try, from an intercept, in stoppage time.
The Chiefs scored a first-half try through wing Asaeli Tokoirotuma, briefly cutting the Crusaders' lead to 12-8. But their second try, to centre Charlie Ngatai, came in the 73rd minute when the Crusaders had built an impregnable 36-8 advantage.
"It was nice," Read said. "We probably set a nice standard at the start of the game and we got a bit of flow on.
"It's a win but we know we have to come back again next week and do it again."Scorers:Crusaders:
Tries: Kieran Read (2) Israel Dagg, Ryan Crotty, Tyler Bleyendaal
Conversions: Dan Carter (3)
Penalties: Carter (4)Chiefs:
Tries: Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Charlie Ngatai
Conversion: Andrew Horrell
Penalty: Aaron CrudenTeams: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 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett
Substitutes: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tyler Bleyendaal, 22 Telusa Veainu
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 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (captain), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu
Substitutes: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Ben Afeaki, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Andrew Horrell, 22 Tim Nanai-Williams