All Blacks captain Kieran Read scored two tries and flyhalf Dan Carter kicked 18 points, surpassing 1,500 points in Super Rugby, as the Canterbury Crusaders took a vital bonus point from a 43-15 win over defending champions the Waikato Chiefs yesterday.
The Crusaders’ win and the five championship points they took from the 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 Blues.
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 into halftime after a relatively competitive first spell.
All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg scored a try immediately after halftime 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 play in contact and in the loose. Carter kicked four penalties to put the Crusaders ahead 12-3, before Read scored under the crossbar on halftime.
Read dashed between the posts from a scrum, but appeared to have been held up and White referred the decision on the try to the TV official. Although repeated replays suggested Read failed to ground the ball, the TV referee allowed the try and the Crusaders built a decisive halftime 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.
Center Ryan Crotty dived over in the right-hand corner in the 57th to secure the vital bonus point. Replacement Tyler Bleyendaal added the Crusaders’ fifth try.
The Chiefs scored a first-half try through winger Asaeli Tokoirotuma, briefly cutting the Crusaders’ lead to 12-8. However, their second try, by center Charlie Ngatai, came in the 73rd minute when the Crusaders had built a 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.”