Super Rugby: Chiefs Atop NZ Conference

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The Chiefs beat the Crusaders in Suva 23-13 on Friday night. It was a commendable performance in the first ever Super Rugby game held in the Pacific.

The Chiefs scored two tries to the Crusaders one, in the wet and slippery conditions. Damian McKenzie (pictured) slotted a crucial three-pointer to deny the Crusaders coming out of the loss with a bonus point. The Chiefs win means they lead Super Rugby’s New Zealand conference by two points.

Good decisions on the night showed a maturity they should be proud of. There was a surprisingly free-flowing approach taken from both sides despite difficult conditions. Played in front of 19,000 fans at ANZ Stadium in Suva, hometown hero Seta Tamanivalu was a key factor in the Chiefs decisive first try.

Chiefs Beat The Crusaders

Tamanivalu slotted a brilliantly-weighted grubber kick for James Lowe to run onto. With no defence due to a rushed line, Lowe was impressive on the left wing. Valuable metres were gained from his powerful kicks, that kept the Crusaders pinned in their own half.

Brad Weber was the Chiefs’ other try scorer, but the five-points were setup by McKenzie. With quick reactions, the 21-year old cut past two defenders in broken play. He then had the presence of mind to step to his left, keeping his hands free in the tackle to offload for the quickest halfback in Super Rugby to score.

The effort shown by Dave Rennie’s men at set piece should be commended. That factor alone was the reason the Chiefs won the game. Trapped on their own goal line in the early stages, they played ‘rope a dope’ rugby. Using their strong scrum to turn the ball, over saw an early Crusaders try go begging early. Besides the Suva turf breaking up, the forwards held firm.

Outstanding effort from in wet conditions

Sam Cane praised the outstanding work of his forward pack in the wet conditions. “It’s always got to be a good effort against this Crusaders side and to come here and get this result is pleasing”, Cane said.

Handing errors haunted the Crusaders all night long. An exceedingly high knock-on rate, many coming in attacking parts of the field. On a difficult night to play rugby (due to wet conditions in Suva) the Crusaders front row featuring three regular All Blacks was out muscled by the Waikato men.

Crusaders captain Kieran Read expressed his annoyance at his teams’ high rate of errors with good attacking ball. “We played with the ball a little too much and we didn’t look after it as well as we should have”, Read said.

Super Rugby: Chiefs Atop NZ Conference

Classed as visitors in this ‘home game’ for the Chiefs, the Crusaders could only manage three-points in the second half. Read would have been disappointed with the overall effort. Especially after heading into the break with the chance of a comeback likely. Jone Macilai scored right on the hooter, to bring his side to within seven-points at the break. A fabulous effort caught the Chiefs napping, as the Crusaders spread the ball.

In the end, the Chiefs were more clinical in key areas of the game. This proved to be a big difference on the night. Uncommon decisions from the Christchurch team meant they did not realize a bonus point. The late penalty to McKenzie, making it an uncomfortable return flight for Read’s men.

The real winner was the rugby-mad nation of Fiji. Tonight’s game was a good advertisement of why Super Rugby should return to the Pacific.

Chiefs 23

Tries: James Lowe, Brad Weber, Penalties: Damian McKenzie 2, Conversions: Damian McKenzie 2. 

Crusaders 13

Tries: John Macilai, Penalties: Richie Mo’unga 2, Conversions: Richie Mo’unga 1. 

“Main photo credit”