By Christopher Reive, NZ Herald
Anyone who saw the Chiefs and Crusaders’ match in Suva might be wondering if there’s a sign somewhere in the stadium that reads: ‘Welcome to Fiji – where points flow, defence is optional and, if you’re on a New Zealand TV broadcast, bula shirts are compulsory.’
It’s not every week that the stadium hosts a Super Rugby match, so it was nice of the Chiefs and Crusaders to give the packed crowd plenty of entertainment on Saturday night. After a 10-try shootout it was the Chiefs who came away with the spoils, claiming a remarkable 40-27 win.
No one would have been backing them home after they went down by 20 inside the opening half hour, but hope finds a way, right?
In this case it was the Chiefs’ playoff hopes, which now remain well and truly alive.
A brilliant 40-metre solo effort by Barrett, during which he laid a mighty fend on Chiefs midfielder Alex Nankivell, kicked things off on the scoreboard. It was an unusual play in what was, quite frankly, a weird game of football.
Halfback Mitchell Drummond scooted over from close range soon after Barrett’s try, before some brilliant work from Ennor sent Sevu Reece over in the corner. The Chiefs were falling off tackles, failing to plug holes in their line and being run over by the Crusaders.
But as bad as they were for the majority of the opening half hour, it took just 11 minutes for them to right their wrongs.
Not to be outdone, the Crusaders defensive line showed they too were capable of leaking points as the Chiefs took advantage of uncharacteristically sloppy tackling and fissures in the Crusaders’ defence. After tries to Solomon Alaimalo, Samisoni Taukei’aho and Jesse Parete in a nine-minute stretch, the Chiefs found themselves trailing by just one point at the break.
The halftime breather came at the wrong time for the Chiefs. Within three minutes of the restart the lead was pushed back out to eight points when Ennor cruised over and Richie Mo’unga converted.
It appeared the Crusaders were going to go on with the job – for about all of five minutes.
Chiefs halfback Brad Weber did well to fight through the defence to give his team a sniff, and from there it was one-way traffic as the Chiefs ran riot over the shell-shocked Crusaders. As he’s done so often this season, Weber was the catalyst for the Chiefs. As the All Blacks selectors get closer and closer to naming their first team of the season, it’s hard to imagine Weber won’t come into consideration given his efforts this year.
His try was the first of three unanswered by the Chiefs as they dominated the second half to run away with a win that won’t soon be forgotten.
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