Hamilton - A desperate defensive effort by the Chiefs paved the way for a 28-19
(half-time 15-13) win over the Crusaders in a cliffhanger Super Rugby
clash between the top New Zealand sides at Waikato Stadium on Friday.
Chiefs never cracked when they were pinned on their own line for 10
minutes midway through the second spell as the Crusaders looked to build
on a one-point lead.
From there, the defending champion Chiefs
worked their way back up field to produce a converted try and a penalty
in the final 10 minutes to seal the outcome.COMMENTARY: Chiefs v CrusadersVIDEO: Chiefs v Crusaders, highlights
The penalty, on the stroke of full-time, also denied the Crusaders a bonus point after they had led for much of the second half in the opening match of round 15.
The Chiefs have now stretched their lead to 10 points over the Crusaders in the New Zealand conference and they also remain firmly on top of the overall standings
ahead of the Bulls and Brumbies.
The Crusaders stay in fifth place overall but are in danger of slipping out of the top six as the remaining matches are played out over the weekend.
In the first half, the Chiefs snaffled two tries from charge downs in what scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow said was a rehearsed move to crowd the Crusaders' kickers.
The first try went to Aaron Cruden when he blocked a Dan Carter clearing kick and captain Craig Clarke scored the second when he overran Tom Marshall as he tried to clear the ball.
But not every Chiefs plan was successful. A gamble early in the game when they rejected a defensive penalty in favour of taking on the Crusaders scrum without injured All Black prop Owen Franks cost them three points.
The Crusaders pack remained a potent force with replacement front-ranker Nepo Laulala and they won a scrum penalty which Tom Taylor slotted between the uprights.
The Crusaders much-vaunted forward power produced their sole first-half try when they drove deep into Chiefs territory with a series of pick-and-goes before Matt Todd crossed the line.
But the eventual match-winning try came from a rare Chiefs victory in the bruising forwards battle.
From a penalty with 10 minutes remaining, the Chiefs again opted for a scrum over a shot at goal and moved the ball wide for inside centre Bundee Aki to score.
Cruden, who had the better of Carter throughout the match, landed the conversion in a match haul of 18 points.
Taylor scored 14 points for the Crusaders from a conversion and four penalties.Scorers:
Tries: Aaron Cruden, Craig Clarke, Bundee Aki
Conversions: Cruden (2)
Penalties: Cruden (3)Crusaders:
Try: Matt Todd
Conversion: Tom Taylor
Penalties: Taylor (4)Teams:Chiefs:
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 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (captain), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu
Substitutes: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Dan Waenga, 22 Lelia Masaga
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 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett
Substitutes: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Dominic Bird, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Robbie Fruean, 22 Telusa Vaianu