Colin Slade kicked the Canterbury Crusaders to a cliffhanger 18-17 victory over the Waikato Chiefs yesterday in a physically demanding clash between New Zealand’s two glamor Super 15 sides.
It is the second loss of the year for the defending champions Chiefs, but they remain at the head of the New Zealand conference, three points clear of the fast-charging Crusaders.
On a wet night that nullified the opportunity for a free-flowing performance, Slade kicked all of the Crusaders points with six penalties as they turned around a 9-17 deficit at halftime to bank their fifth win from eight matches.
However, it was Slade’s all-round game that drew praise from stand-in skipper Ryan Crotty.
“He was a big part of getting the momentum back in the second half. He kept the ball in front of us, put them under pressure and we capitalized on the back of that,” Crotty said.
“It was like the Crusaders sides of old. We dug deep and clawed our way back into it,” he added.
The Chiefs scored the only try of the match, just on halftime, with the remainder of their points coming from the boot of Gareth Anscombe.
Anscombe had a chance to win the game on fulltime with a 51m penalty attempt, but the ball fell short of the posts.
With the rain ruling out champagne rugby, the clash between the multiple champions Crusaders and the reigning titleholders became a war of attrition.
Bone-jarring tackles to nullify close passing attacks led to a procession of players requiring concussion tests.
Both the Crusaders’ talismanic captain, Kieran Read, and Chiefs scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow lasted only half an hour before their games ended with head knocks.
The Chiefs put on a telling spurt as the Crusaders struggled to re-organize themselves in Read’s absence, and with lock Dominic Bird in the sinbin after a shoulder charge that put Liam Squire out with concussion.
In the closing 10 minutes of the first half they turned a 3-9 deficit into a 17-9 lead, with three penalties to Gareth Anscombe and the sole try of the match by Tom Marshall.
The domination continued for the opening seven minutes of the second half when the Chiefs camped firmly on the Crusaders line, but were denied any reward by a resolute defense.
Although the Crusaders, in turn, never looked like cracking the Chiefs’ defense, they played adventurous enough to stay on the right side of halfway for Slade to continue banging over penalties, slotting the winning kick with 10 minutes remaining.
WARATAHS V BULLS
An Israel Folau try in the opening 28 seconds proved the difference as the New South Wales Waratahs ended a nine-year Super 15 losing streak against the Northern Bulls yesterday.
Folau scored his ninth try of the season on his return from a throat injury to propel the Waratahs to a hard-fought 19-12 win over the South Africans in Sydney.
The Waratahs, watched by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, ended a losing eight-match run against the Bulls in what was their first win over the triple Super Rugby champions since 2005.
The win took the Waratahs to within one point of the ACT Brumbies at the top of the Australian conference, while the Bulls remained second behind the Coastal Sharks in the South African conference.
Folau was controversially pulled out of the Waratahs match against the Western Force in Perth last week by the Australian Rugby Union (ARU), overriding the team’s medical staff on the state of the prized fullback’s bruised throat.