20 points from the boot of Dan Carter helped the Crusaders battle to victory over the Chiefs in Napier on Saturday. The All Black stand-off celebrated his new four year deal contract with Canterbury and New Zealand kicking five penalties, a conversion and drop goal in a physical contest.
Carter put his side 3-0 up inside two minutes with a simple penalty from in front of the posts, but the Chiefs immediately pegged them back after a superb penalty from Stephen Donald. The Chiefs then took the lead in the 14th minute after another confident strike by Donald.
Neither side was able to dominate in the first half both defences were on top, forcing handling errors and turnovers. Dan Carter finally sparked into life ten minutes before the break, a show and go inside his own 22 and a wonderful burst of speed sent him clear of the Chiefs defence, he made it all the way to the Chiefs 22, but the lack of support meant the move broke down and a great chance went begging. It summed up the first period perfectly, both sides having half chances but lack of support runners and passes not going to hand denied any tries being scored.
Carter did have the last word of the half with a penalty right on the whistle to send the sides into the break level at 6-6.
The Crusaders did cross the line just three minutes after the break, second row Luke Romano picked a superb line a split the defence and wasn't going to be stopped from 15 metres out. Carter added the conversion to extend the lead to 13-6.
Four minutes later Carter added another three points to the scoreboard with a well struck effort, but another Stephen Donald penalty made the score 16-9 going into the last half-hour. The Crusaders were playing a very conservative style, playing for territory and forcing the Chiefs into mistakes. They were dominant at the set-piece and put the Chiefs scrum and line-out under immense pressure, which meant the visitors were playing the game with very limited field position.
Carter and Donald once again exchanged penalties to make the score 19-12 with just 10 minutes to go.
But it was the star of the show Carter who sealed the victory with a drop goal and another penalty to move the Crusaders 25-12. But the Chiefs claimed a losing bonus point with the final play of the game a close range try by Liam Messam was merely a consolation effort and Donald's penalty meant the Chiefs didn't leave empty handed.
The Crusaders put in a powerful and dominant display, but lacked any real creative spark outside Carter and seemed to really miss Sonny-Bill Williams. They will need to improve when they take on the Reds next week in what could be the game of the tournament.
Man of the Match