The Crusaders have withstood a late second half comeback to beat the Chiefs 18-13 and maintain their unbeaten status in Super Rugby Aotearoa.
The match – played in wet, slippery conditions – made for a difficult playing surface at Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch, which led to a raft of handling errors, plenty of kicking and a plethora of lineouts and scrums.
As such, the opening half hour proved to be a dull procession, with a penalty apiece to Richie Mo’unga and Damian McKenzie providing the only socring relief.
However, some individual brilliance from electric outside backs Sevu Reece and Will Jordan saw the latter bag a spectacular try against the run of play following some impressive ball-handling by the former from a Mo’unga bomb kick inside his own half.
A misfield by McKenzie allowed Reece to canter down the right flank before drawing in the covering Sean Wainui to send Jordan away for his 11th try in just his 14th appearance for the Crusaders.
Jordan’s career try count built to 12 early in the second half thanks to some quick thinking by Reece, who capitalised on a lpase of concentatrion by the Chiefs as they indulged in conversation with the referee over an aspect of officiating while the ball was out of play.
A quick throw-in by the All Blacks wing set Jordan away to boost into the right-hand corner to give the Crusaders a healthy 15-3, which was extended not long afterwards thanks to the goal-kicking boot of Mo’unga.
Down 18-3 deep into the second half, a late Wainui try off the back of patient build up play by Warren Gatland’s men kept the Chiefs in the hunt as the clock ticked towards full-time.
An unlikely come-from-behind win broaden on the horizon when McKenzie slotted another penalty goal with just over 10 minutes to play.
That set up an enthralling final few minutes as the visitors threatened to strike inside the final couple of minutes thrashing the opposition tryline, but the defensive steel of the home side was enough to earn them the win.
The result leaves the Crusaders just two points behind the in-form Blues at the summit of the league table, both sides undefeated at this point of the competition.
With a game in hand and the Blues due for a bye this week, a blockbuster clash in Christchurch in a fortnight’s time is imminent with both sides undoubtedly the favourites to be crowned the best Super Rugby franchise in New Zealand.
At the other end of the spectrum sit the Chiefs, who remain winless after three outings and languish in second-last place with only two points to their name.
Fans from across Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and Counties Manukau will be hoping their side can dust themselves off for a bottom-of-the-table clash with the Hurricanes in Hamilton next week in what is a must-win fixture if they are to stay in the hunt for the inaugural Super Rugby Aotearoa title.
Crusaders 18 (2 tries to Will Jordan; conversion and 2 penalties to Richie Mo’unga)
Chiefs 13 (Try to Sean Wainui; conversion and 2 penalties to Damian McKenzie)
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now