Vodacom Super 14

Crusaders down Chiefs

2009-02-14 10:44
New Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder
Christchurch - The Cruaders made a winning start to the Todd Blackadder era as coach when they edged out the gutsy Chiefs 19-13 in a Vodacom Super 14 match in Christchurch on Saturday.

The champions scored three tries to two, but the third of their tries was scored in the last minute of a tight game, and in reality it could have gone either way as the Chiefs had several opportunities to win it as the match headed into the final minutes.

The Crusaders will be pleased to have won, for it was their first victory over the Chiefs since 2006, but for a first match of a new season at home, it was not really enough to at this stage dispel the view that they may be more vulnerable this year. At the same time, the Chiefs will be kicking themselves for missing a great opportunity to score what would have been only their second opening victory in Super rugby, their previous one having come in 2004.

It was a scrappy game, particularly in the first half, but there was still sufficient quality from both sides in their better moments for it to go down as a match worth watching. The newcomers generally showed they could take the step up, with new Crusaders flyhalf Colin Slade, this season filling the mighty boots of Dan Carter, hitting the mark almost immediately as he put through a well targeted kick onto the Chiefs goalline after 15 minutes for Casey Laulala to score the first of his two tries.

Where the Chiefs fell down a bit was in their goalkicking, with neither of their tries being converted. The first of them came not long after Laulala’s effort, with Leila Masaga, who had a solid game, managing to pick up an awkward bounce from a kick before surging through. He was tackled just shot of the line but was able to transfer to Richard Kahui for the score.

The Crusaders scored again with two minutes before the break, but it was a try that came against the run of play as Tim Bateman burst through for a breakaway try to make the score 14-8 at half time. The precision of both sides improved in the second half, when the game was a lot less scrappy and more fluent, and both teams managed to build up impressively for possible try scoring opportunities only to be denied by good defence.

However, Masaga scored a great try off one of his typical surging runs on the hour mark, and had the conversion been slotted, the Chiefs would have been ahead and it might have been a different game in that the eventual losers would have been less committed to catch-up rugby in the last quarter. As it was there was only one point separating the teams when Laulala forced his way over for the try that sealed it for Crusaders on the stroke of full time.

The losers should have been encouraged by the way the pack stood up, particularly in the scrums, as they started with three players in the tight five who had never played Super 14 rugby before today.


Crusaders 19 – Tries: Casey Laulala 2 and Tim Bateman; Conversions: Colin Slade 2.

Chiefs 13 – Tries: Richard Kahui and Lelia Masaga; Penalty: Stephen Donald.



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