Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan couldn’t hide his delight after his side beat the Crusaders in Hamilton on Saturday, but said they were somewhat lucky to notch their victory.
With the match played in front of a capacity crowd at FMG Stadium, the defending champions came out firing as they dominated proceedings during the opening half and spent long periods camped inside the Chiefs’ 22.
Brave defensive effort
The home side countered several attacks with a brave defensive effort – and the Crusaders had three tries disallowed by the TMO – but after most of the match was evenly contested, the Chiefs sealed a 34-24 triumph with tries from Shaun Stevenson and Tyrone Thompson in the game’s latter stages.
“We really had to grind that one,” said McMillan after the match. “We probably rode our luck a bit… got a couple of ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards in that first half, but we stayed in the fight.
“We came in at half-time up, probably against the run of play, but we scored in the moments we really needed to score tries… really happy.”
Chiefs captain Sam Cane believes the 23,000-plus crowd played its part in helping his team over the line – especially during some tense moments when the Crusaders were camped close to their try-line.
Cane conceded that his emotions nearly got the better of him when he saw the crowd’s joyful celebrations at the final whistle.
“I didn’t see it coming, but I almost got a bit emotional talking about the amount of people that came out to support us tonight,” he said. “You just don’t take it for granted, because it shows they’re getting in behind us.
“They believe in what we’re doing. I suppose, in a funny way, we’ve earned their trust and respect and belief, that they want to come out and support us.
“It makes a difference.”
Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson echoed Cane’s sentiments and admits that FMG Stadium is a difficult place to visit.
“Pretty hostile, wasn’t it?” he said. “It was awesome… the old ‘Tron’, what a place.
“It’s great, it’s what Super Rugby needs.”
No reward for the Crusaders
Robertson was left bemused that his side found little reward for the dominance they had in the possession and territorial stakes.
“We needed this game, but we just couldn’t execute in a couple of moments,” he said.
“We felt we put so much pressure on them. Those three disallowed tries… everything just added up.
“We played some great footy, some of the boys were exceptional. There’s a lot of positive stuff, as long as we get bodies and enthusiasm and energy each week, and make sure we’re doing that for finals footy, but remember the lessons from today.”