June 02, 2018

Gallagher Chiefs go down to a clinical Crusaders side

In the final round before the three-week international break the Gallagher Chiefs have been beaten 34-20 by the Crusaders at FMG Stadium Waikato.

The match was played at a high intensity from the first whistle in what was an even contest, with the Crusaders sealing the win with a try just four minutes from fulltime, despite a courageous second half performance from the Chiefs.

A fast start from the Crusaders saw them open the scoring with just four minutes on the clock. After some early pressure led to a penalty five metres out from the Gallagher Chiefs line, a quick tap from Crusaders hooker Codie Taylor caught the Chiefs defence napping with Number 8 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis scoring in the left-hand corner.

First five Richie Mo'unga slotted the sideline conversion for an early 7-0 lead, with his opposite Damian McKenzie getting the Chiefs on the scoreboard soon after with a penalty kick.

As the match headed towards the end of the opening quarter, the Crusaders worked their way downfield and came away with three more points from the boot of Mo'unga.

The response from the Chiefs was superb. Firstly, a break down the right wing from centre Anton Lienert-Brown put them on the front foot, and quick ball from the ruck was pushed wide with a brilliant cut out pass from McKenzie finding wing Sean Wainui, who scored against his old side.

Some brilliance from Charlie Ngatai then made it a quick double strike for the Chiefs. The second five kicked ahead a loose ball from near halfway and then forced a turnover which ended in a try to impressive loose forward Luke Jacobson.

McKenzie was unable to convert either try, but the 10 points in three minutes suddenly saw the Chiefs in front 13-10.

As the fast and physical first half wore on, it was the Crusaders who struck next with a well worked lineout seeing flanker Matt Todd get the try that put the visitors back in front, 17-13 after the Mo'unga conversion, with five minutes left in the half.

With all the momentum late in the first half, as the clocked ticked past 40 minutes there was another chance for Mo'unga to add further points and he made no mistake, extending his side's lead to 20-13 at the break.

On the back of a huge scrum, which earned them a penalty near halfway, the Crusaders added a third try to make a big statement early in the second half. Again, it came off the back of a lineout with the ball moved swiftly right then left with wing George Bridge the man to finish off the movement.

Mo'unga continued his impressive kicking performance, adding another conversion from wide out, to give the Crusaders a comfortable 14-point lead.

Just as it looked like the Crusaders might pull away, the Chiefs hit back in style with a second try to Luke Jacobson. After an initial break from inside their own half by Lienert-Brown and Solomon Alaimalo, the good field position was turned into points as several Chiefs forwards charged close to the line with Jacobson eventually crashing over.

The Chiefs third try seemed to be a huge confidence booster for the home side as they dominated the match for large periods over the next 15 minutes, but they were met by some stern Crusaders defence.

As the match entered the final 10 minutes the Crusaders slowly began to show their composure and experience, holding on to possession to frustrate the Chiefs, and with just four minutes left they were able to land the killer blow - lock Luke Romano scoring the decisive try.

There was a late chance for the Chiefs to snatch a bonus point but a lineout 10 metres from the line was lost, allowing the Crusaders to wind down the remainder of the clock for a deserved win.

Gallagher Chiefs 20 (Luke Jacobson 2, Sean Wainui tries; Damian McKenzie con, pen) Crusaders 34 (Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Matt Todd, George Bridge, Luke Romano tries; Richie Mo'unga 3 cons, 2 pens, Mitchell Hunt con) HT: 13-20.

The Gallagher Chiefs now head into the June international break before returning for the final three round robin matches, starting with the Highlanders in Suva, Fiji on Saturday 30 June.

Gallagher Chiefs go down to a clinical Crusaders side