The Canterbury Crusaders bounced back from a loss last week with a ruthless 32-19 victory over the Waikato Chiefs in Super Rugby Aotearoa yesterday to be on the verge of sealing the title.
Poor discipline by the Crusaders allowed the Chiefs to stay in touch with a string of penalties in the first 60 minutes, but as they so often do, the Crusaders pulled away in the final quarter, although with a question mark over one of their late tries.
The Super Rugby champions for the past three seasons until the COVID-19 pandemic brought this year’s competition to a halt, they need only one more win with two games to play to claim the New Zealand domestic title.
A week ago, after a loss to the Wellington Hurricanes, there were questions about how the Crusaders would handle defeat.
“We had a real honest review, looked in the mirror and said we didn’t front up last week and knew what we were coming up here for,” captain Codie Taylor said. “I’m just really proud we came up here and put on a good show. It was a hell of an arm wrestle and a couple opportunities we took and that’s what it’s about.”
While the Crusaders have played six and won five, the Chiefs have played and lost seven.
“It hurts,” captain Sam Cane said, listing a yellow card just before halftime and a disputed second-half try as key moments. “We’ll look at those two moments and how we can better, but credit to the Crusaders, it was a tough battle.”
The Crusaders outscored the Chiefs five tries to one, but they conceded 13 penalties with Damian McKenzie kicking four to keep the Chiefs in touch.
Tom Sanders and Will Jordan scored the first two tries as the Crusaders raced to a 12-0 lead.
The Chiefs opened their account by targeting a Crusaders strength when they opted for a scrum when awarded a penalty 8m from the line. They held their own against the powerful Crusaders pack and Lachlan Boshier burrowed over from close range.
A minute from halftime, Chiefs wing Shaun Stevenson was yellow-carded and from the resulting penalty the Crusaders mounted a lineout drive producing a try to Taylor.
McKenzie landed three penalties to one by Richie Mo’unga in the third quarter as the Chiefs narrowed the margin to 19-20, but with 20 minutes remaining the Crusaders pulled away.
After several replays the television match official approved a try to Sevu Reece, despite Chiefs’ protestations that there had been a knock on, and then Leicester Fainga’anuku touched down to seal the outcome.
In Super Rugby AU, the ACT Brumbies downed the Queensland Reds 22-20.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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