Chiefs head coach Warren Gatland has said he is ‘furious’ after his side lost their third game in a row in Super Rugby Aotearoa. The Blues and Crusaders remain the only unbeaten teams in New Zealand’s new competition after the Crusaders won their match against the Chiefs 18-13 in Christchurch on Sunday.
In wet, greasy conditions, Will Jordan scored twice for the Crusaders to give them two wins from two matches and extended their unbeaten home record to 35.
The Blues, who have played an extra game, notched their third win on Saturday when they held off a hard-finishing Highlanders 27-24. The Chiefs have now lost three from three, the Wellington Hurricanes have lost two from two and the Highlanders have a win and a loss.
It was a battle of attrition in Christchurch with the tone set midweek when Crusaders prop Joe Moody talked of a “deep-seated hatred” of the Chiefs, which gave visiting coach Warren Gatland all the ammunition he needed for his pre-match pep talk.
Gatland, who will take a break from the Chiefs next year to coach the B&I Lions in South Africa, let his emotions get the better of him in the post-match reaction.
Gatland questioned what he felt was the lenient attitude of referee James Doleman towards the Crusaders at the breakdown.
His biggest gripe was the refereeing in the build-up to fullback Will Jordan’s second try.
Jordan’s second try early in the second half came from another Chiefs error, when an Aaron Cruden pass went into touch.
While the Chiefs switched off believing there would be a reset for a line-out, Reece took a quick throw-in to Jordan rushing up from fullback and he ran 30 metres untouched to the line.
”We were furious because we just felt the breakdown before it [the try], we felt Goodhue should have been penalised,” Gatland told a post-match media briefing.
“To me, it was a tough decision, and then for them to take a quick throw and us not to react to it,” the winless Chiefs coach added.
“I just thought it was a certain penalty to us, I thought Goodhue made a tackle, and he’s ended up rolling into our side and slowed the ball down.”
Chiefs scrumhalf Brad Weber was heard deliberating the laws with the referee and he continued to remonstrate well after the ball had been flicked into touch.
Doleman could clearly be heard telling Weber at the ruck: ”no, you’re pushing him [teammate] into him. Brad, stop.”
The Chiefs, including flyhalf Aaron Cruden, continued to make their case after the try was awarded, Doleman again dismissed the Chiefs.
“Don’t have a go at me, away you go,” he said.
With the constant rain forcing handling errors and dictating a bruising forward clash with lots of kicking by the backs, the result came down to the Crusaders capitalising on the two opportunities that went their way.
“We knew it was going to be a confrontational game and we had to make sure the breakdown was really clean,” Crusaders captain Codie Taylor said.
“A young fella like Will Jordan who’s on his toes and just wants to get involved and it’s awesome to see the boys backing their skills especially in conditions like this.”
Chiefs captain Sam Cane called it a “classic arm wrestle” which came down to the Crusaders making the most of key moments.
“There wasn’t much between the two sides and credit to the Crusaders, a couple of opportunistic tries, and a couple of moments can really swing a game,” Cane said.
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