Super Rugby - Round 15
Chiefs score thrilling win over Crusaders
May 24, 2013
The Chiefs' Patrick Osborne is tackled by Crusaders fullback Israel Dagg
© Getty Images
It was a moment that would test their resolve in a match that would summarise their season - and the Chiefs delivered.
A try to Bundee Aki in the 70th minute helped the Chiefs secure an entertaining 28-19 victory over the Crusaders at Waikato Stadium.
The hosts' superior kicking game and ability to capitalise on the inferiority of their opponents' kick allowed them to secure a 15-13 half-time lead.
A composed Crusaders side, one that had won a number of Super Rugby titles, returned in the second half as rugby's answer to Lionel Messi, Tom Taylor, kicked the Crusaders to a 19-15 lead.
A quick Aaron Cruden penalty followed before Aki's try in the 70th ensured the Chiefs had a six-point cushion with 10 minutes to play.
Premature celebrations amongst the 22,187 fans at Waikato Stadium saw the tension lift slightly after what had been an intense 70 minutes prior.
But, in a match that could define their title defence, the Chiefs held firm to secure just their seventh win over the Crusaders in 21 encounters.
For the Crusaders, the loss ends their five-match winning streak and sees them 10 points below the Chiefs to be second in the New Zealand conference.
The teams observed a moment's silence to mark the death of former Chiefs and Waikato assistant coach Farrell Temata.
Both New Zealand sides came into the match with improved defensive performances, the Crusaders with an impressive 23-3 victory over the Blues while the Chiefs outlasted the Hurricanes 17-12.
The hosts were able to capitalise on two sub-par clearance kicks en route to a 15-13 half-time advantage. It was a lead built more on a rushed defence and putting pressure on the kicks of five-eighth Dan Carter and solidified with a sound kicking game from Cruden.
Cruden was one of the direct beneficiaries from Carter's first error. An attempted low clearance kick was read by the Chiefs No.10, who blocked the kick before regaining the ball to dive under the posts to give the hosts a 7-3 advantage.
It looked as if a try to Matt Todd, courtesy of some patient build-up play close to the Chiefs line, would help restore parity before a second charged down kick ensured the hosts had a two-point lead at half-time.
It was inspirational captain Craig Clarke who scored the second try, efficiently blocking winger Tom Marshall's attempted clearance before he regathered in the corner to restore a five-point buffer.
The Crusaders came out swinging in the second half in trademark fashion - through their forwards.
Despite some early penalties in the third quarter and a decent spell on attack, it looked as if the Crusaders would surrender their 19-18 lead with just under 15 minutes to play when the hosts found themselves close to the visitors' tryline.
The Chiefs end the Crusaders' five-match winning streak with victory in Waikato (video available in Australia only)%]
Poor handling, something of an Achilles heel for the Chiefs this season, came back to haunt them as the Canterbury franchise defended stoically to hold them out once more.
The Crusaders dodged another bullet when a try to Charlie Ngatai was denied by video referee Ben Skeen on the ground of obstruction.
It was a moment that looked to have denied the Chiefs a chance at winning the match. But the rugby gods smiled upon the hosts as a try to Aki ensured the celebrations in Hamilton started on the full-time whistle.