Chiefs too good for Crusaders

Date published: April 17 2015

The Chiefs made it back-to-back triumphs over the Crusaders in 2015 as they claimed a comfortable 26-9 victory in Christchurch on Friday.

Defeat means the hosts are now twelve points off the first-placed Chiefs in the New Zealand conference, with their playoff hopes taking another substantial hit. And things could get a lot worse after Saturday's remaining fixtures.

The seven-time champions seem bereft of ideas right now as they couldn't bounce back from last week's home loss to the Highlanders.

Things weren't helped when their woeful first-half record against the Chiefs continued in a mistake-ridden 40 minutes as they went in 18-6 down at the break. Such have been their bleak openings against their rival, it's now the fifth straight game they've failed to hit double figures at the turnaround.

That rot should have been broken though had Dan Carter had his kicking boots on, as his three missed penalties cost the Christchurch outfit.

The Chiefs thought they had opened the scoring on five minutes when scrum-half Brad Weber sent wing Tim Nanai-Williams under the posts. But the television match official rightly intervened as he spotted that prop Ben Tameifuna had held loosehead Wyatt Crockett to create the gap.

Carter struck three minutes later from the tee when Weber's pass on halfway was this time intercepted by flanker Jordan Taufua, who ran to within ten metres before Sam Cane was yellow carded for tackling the nine. Aaron Cruden would, however, level from the restart as Sam Whitelock found himself isolated at ruck time.

Unfortunately for the Crusaders they did not make their numerical advantage count as the next score went the way of the Chiefs when Cane had returned. However, it wasn't from their regular kicker as Cruden had hobbled off with a knee problem so the impressive Nanai-Williams slotted one from in front.

Those three points followed two poor misses off the tee from Carter, as the decision to drop Colin Slade from those duties became a mystery.

Another mystery too was the Crusaders errors under no real pressure and it cost them another seven points on 21 minutes as Richie McCaw's knock-on led to number eight Michael Leitch going over with relative ease. Replacement fly-half Andrew Horrell made no mistake as their third kicker.

At 13-3, the Chiefs were in a promising position and with Carter missing another effort on the half-hour before finally finding his range on 37 minutes, there was no doubt who the happier head coach would have been heading into the dressing rooms.

But the first-half wasn't done there as deja vu from Hamilton saw in-form wing James Lowe race over on the left after the Crusaders lost the ball at a ruck on halfway. That meant that the Chiefs went in 18-6 ahead and looking like they held the psychological edge on their hosts.

After the turnaround, the score was cut to 18-9 by Carter when Cane was pinged for not releasing the tackled player. In truth he was running the risk with referee Nick Briant as the Crusaders were on the march at that point. Another official might have seen the offence as cynical.

Todd Blackadder sensed his charges needed something else out there and sent on Owen Franks and Jimmy Tupou for Nepo Laulala and Luke Romano respectively before the 58-minute mark. However, it didn't lead to them further reducing the gap as it was in fact Horrell who struck next.

21-9 was now the scoreline with the Chiefs looking far too comfortable from a Crusaders' perspective as the crowd was muted due to that fact. Suddenly the prospect of being twelve points off the men from Hamilton was dawning on the Crusaders.

And it therefore came as no surprise that the result was rubber stamped with seven minutes remaining when Tom Marshall's brilliant carry before Nanai-Williams' smart offload in the home 22 led to replacement number eight Liam Squire cruising over. Despite Horrell's missed conversion, the Chiefs were home and hosed at 26-9.

Credit to the Chiefs though who kept plugging away into added time, looking for the try bonus-point, but in the end they would settle for a professional four.

The scorers:

For Crusaders:
Pens: Carter 3

For Chiefs:
Tries: Leitch, Lowe, Squire
Con: Horrell
Pens: Cruden, Nanai-Williams, Horrell

Yellow Card: Cane

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 David Havili, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Mitchell Drumond, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Nafi Tuitavake.

Chiefs: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Mitchell Graham.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Pauliasi Manu, 19 Michael Fitzgerald, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Bryce Heem.

Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant referees: Kane McBride, Brendon Pickerill
TMO: Ben Skeen