June 01, 2019

Match Report | Gallagher Chiefs remarkable comeback against the Crusaders

A remarkable turnaround from the Gallagher Chiefs has seen them come back from 20-0 down to score six tries and claim a breath-taking 40-27 win over the Crusaders at ANZ National Stadium in Suva.

On a warm night in the Fijian capital, the Chiefs showed great character to fight their way back into the contest after a low start, outscoring the Crusaders 40-7 over the final 50 minutes of the match to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The opening 10 minutes of match saw the ball in play for long periods, making for an entertaining start, before the Crusaders won a penalty inside Chiefs territory which first five Richie Mo'unga turned into a 3-0 lead.

Shortly after the restart, a handling error from the Chiefs saw the Crusaders pounce with Ryan Crotty offloading to lock Scott Barrett who made a great run from 45 metres out to score.

More pressure from the Crusaders, coupled with simple errors from the Chiefs, resulted in a second try as halfback Mitchell Drummond picked up and scored from the back of a ruck after a strong lineout drive.

Another steady set piece, this time a scrum deep inside their own half, set up the Crusaders' third try. With the ball moved swiftly through the backline, Braydon Ennor made the initial line break before handing off to local boy Sevu Reece who got the ball near halfway and raced clear to score.

The three quick tries had the defending champions out to a comfortable 20-0 lead after the opening quarter.

Following the Reece try, the Chiefs began to find their feet after the opening Crusaders onslaught. They were rewarded with their first points in the 30th minute when they broke out for a long range try with fullback Solomon Alaimalo showing great pace before swerving around the last defender to score.

With their confidence lifted, the Chiefs marched downfield once more and went close to scoring after a nice run from second five Alex Nankivell. They kept their composure from the resulting five metres scrum, with hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho twisting his way over the line.

From the kick off, Anton Lienert-Brown put Number 8 Pita Gus Sowakula into the clear and two phases later, with the Crusaders defence on the back foot, prop Atu Moli threw a brilliant wide pass for Nankivell who turned it back inside for lock Jesse Parete to score.

Just as quick as they had conceded three tries, the Chiefs had replied with three of their own, and got themselves back within one point with the Crusaders leading 20-19 at the break.

It took the Crusaders just two minutes to strike in the second half, with some nice interchanging of passes in midfield creating space on the left wing for Braydon Ennor to score.

The Chiefs hit back almost immediately as they showed great determination and skill to keep the ball alive and charge downfield, with halfback Brad Weber the man to finish off after a nice run and offload from replacement prop Angus Ta’avao.

A blockbusting run from Taukei’aho put the Chiefs on the front foot once more, and they crossed the line near the right-hand touchline but the ball was lost forward, and the Crusaders clung onto their one-point lead as the match headed into the final quarter.

With momentum slowly building for the Chiefs, they controlled possession and steadily worked their way into Crusaders territory, before Jack Debreczeni turned a pass back inside to winger Shaun Stevenson who showed great acceleration to burst clear and score from 40 metres out.

Debreczeni converted from under the posts and the Chiefs had their first lead of the night, 33-27, with 10 minutes remaining.

As fatigue set in, the Chiefs showed great character to defend their slim lead in the final stages. Then, with time nearly up, replacement Tumua Manu superbly plucked a 22 metre restart out of the air and raced away untouched to seal the win.

Gallagher Chiefs 40 (Solomon Alaimalo, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Jesse Parete, Brad Weber, Shaun Stevenson, Tumua Manu tries; Jack Debreczeni 5 cons) Crusaders 27 (Scott Barrett, Mitchell Drummond, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor tries; Riche Mo'unga 2 cons, pen) HT: 19-20.

The Gallagher Chiefs now head into a bye week before returning to action for their final round robin match in Melbourne against the Rebels (Friday 14 June, kick off 9.45pm).

Match Report | Gallagher Chiefs remarkable comeback against the Crusaders