Crusaders leave Chiefs behind

 Bryn Hall of the Crusaders runs through to score a try. Photo: Getty
Bryn Hall of the Crusaders runs through to score a try. Photo: Getty

Last week it was the Crusaders pack. Tonight their relentless defence. Lesser teams would have crumbled under the amount of pressure the Crusaders had to absorb. Not this team. Not this year.

The Crusaders 27-13 win is a clear sign it is going to take a mighty effort from anyone wanting to prevent them claiming their eighth title; their first since 2008.

Making 117 more tackles than the Chiefs alone is testament to the tenacity of Scott Robertson's men this season. They are on a mission. For large parts this was not a vintage performance but they showed immense resilience to tackle themselves to a standstill, and took their chances with clinical composure like classy teams do.

They have still never lost a home playoff match.

Conscious of how much ball the Highlanders kicked away last week, and how it worked against them, the Chiefs were never going to make the same mistakes.

From the outset their intent was clear: retain possession, build phases and pressure. With support players stationed off the shoulder, ready to clean out opposition when the ball carrier hit the deck, the Chiefs achieved crucial continuity and forced the Crusaders to defend and defend.

The Crusaders scored the first half's only try after Ryan Crotty and Dagg exploited space down the blindside, and Bryn Hall was found backing up as all good halfbacks should. But that was one of few attacking chances, as they spent much of their time kicking the ball away or scrambling on defence.

With Brodie Retallick heavily involved, Sam Cane and Mitchell Brown likewise, the Chiefs rumbled forward, constantly challenging the vaunted Crusaders pack. Cruden's creativity came to the fore with breaks and cross-field kicks; Lowe, Anton Lienert-Brown and Damian McKenzie all sparked raids at other times, one from inside their 22. They came to play and were not afraid to have a crack.

Yet the Chiefs couldn't convert. They were unlucky to have Tim Nanai-Williams' try rubbed out by TMO Glenn Newman. Referee Glen Jackson awarded the try, only for Newman to deem the Samoan wing lost the ball over the line. If the Chiefs felt hard done by they certainly were by Jackson not going back to the advantage he was playing.

At other times, though, they could only blame themselves as execution let them down. Turnovers, knock-ons at the ruck five metres out; they lacked the clinical finishing.

Ultimately, that and the Crusaders defiant defence proved the difference.


Crusaders 27 (Bryn Hall tries, Seta Tamanivalu 2, Israel Dagg, Richie Mo'unga pen, con 2 )
Chiefs 13 (Brodie Retallick try Damian McKenzie pen 2, con)
HT: 10-6

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