A try by scrumhalf Brendon Leonard, converted by Stephen Donald, gave the visitors a 20-3 lead and the Chiefs will be wondering why they fell to pieces so dramatically in the second half.
CRUSADERS 42, FORCE 30
The Canterbury Crusaders scored two tries in the last 10 minutes to quash a desperate challenge from Western Force and ride out 42-30 winners in a pulsating match in Perth, Australia.
Trailing 30-25 in the last quarter, the Crusaders counter-attacked furiously to wrest back the lead with a 71st minute try to hooker Corey Flynn before scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali’i crossed four minutes later to seal victory.
Despite dominating possession, ill-discipline threatened to undo the Crusaders as they conceded a raft of penalties to let the Force back in to the match in the second half. Inside center James O’Connor took advantage with five penalty goals, the last giving his team a five-point lead with 20 minutes to play.
Crusaders got off to a flying start courtesy of rampaging fullback Israel Dagg, who crossed twice to put his team up 10-0 by the eighth minute.
The spring-heeled All Black burned away from the Force defense to plant his first try in the right corner in the third minute. His second left another string of Force defenders in his wake as he crossed right of the posts after trampling over winger David Smith.
The Force steadied through O’Connor, who slotted three quick penalties and sparked his team’s first try with a sprint down the left wing after Smith swooped on a turnover ball deep in defense.
The Wallabies back passed inside to split the Crusaders’ defense, allowing flyhalf Willie Ripia to hand off to fullback Cameron Shepherd, who crossed in the left corner.
Ripia’s conversion put the Force in front 15-14 before Dagg exploded again, combining with Sonny Bill Williams to wrest the lead back a few minutes later with a searing run through the middle that set up the center to cross right of the posts.
O’Connor slotted a penalty goal to cut the deficit to 22-19 at halftime and the Force appeared set for an unlikely victory when Shepherd notched his second try in the right corner 13 minutes after the break.
However, the Crusaders mounted a withering assault on the Force line that culminated in Flynn’s try, the hooker leaping to his feet after being brought down in a tackle and scampering over the line to put the Crusaders 33-30 up.