Match Centre: Super Rugby Pacific: Chiefs 33-29 Crusaders

Sevu Reece's try went in vain for Crusaders
Sevu Reece's try went in vain for Crusaders
©Steve Haag

Chiefs 33-29 Crusaders, FMG Stadium Waikato

Chiefs managed to hold off a second half fightback from Crusaders as they sealed a 33-29 victory in their opening fixture of the Super Rugby Pacific at FMG Stadium Waikato.

Chiefs scored 27 points in the opening half as compared to 10 points from Crusaders but a double from Chay Fihaki along with a touchdown from Scott Barrett almost gave a chance for the visitors although a couple of penalty kicks from Josh Ioane in the final five minutes tilted the game in favour of the hosts.

With Dom Gardiner penalised for not rolling away, Damian McKenzie kicked the first points of the competition taking Chiefs to a 3-0 lead before Crusaders lost Tamati Williams to injury in the 10th minute. The scores were levelled shortly as Quinn Tupaea infringed and Rivez Reihana slotted a three-pointer.

Chiefs dominated the remainder of the opening quarter with further tries from Kaylum Boshier and Xavier Roe which McKenzie improved on both the occasions extending their lead to 17-3 before the Crusaders struck back as Mitchell Drummond, Dallas McLeod and Tom Christie combined to send Sevu Reece over the line. Reihana slotted the extras making it 17-10.

The third try for the Chiefs came around the half hour mark as Etene Nanai-Seturo cuts back and went past three defenders to dot down and McKenzie followed with the conversion and a penalty goal to ensure the hosts completed the opening half with a 27-10 lead.

The Chiefs suffered a setback early in the second half as McKenzie left the field with a leg injury and Ioane replaced him before Crusaders gathered the momentum with back to back tries from Fihaki and Barrett as the gap between the teams came down to five points.

Crusaders thought they scored another try in the 67th minute when Jamie Hannah almost went through but the try was ruled out after consulting with the TMO but shortly he aided Fihaki to complete his second. Taha Kemara's conversion meant Crusaders went into the lead for the first time as the game entered the final 10 minutes.

The 75th minute saw Chiefs penalised for offside and Ioane kicked the penalty goal to make it 30-29 before the replacement fly-half kicked his second three-pointer in the closing stage to complete a thrilling victory.

Team line up:

Chiefs: Aidan Ross, Bradley Slater, Reuben O’Neill, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Tupou Vaa’i, Samipeni Finau, Kalyum Boshier, Luck Jacobson (c), Xavier Roe, Damian McKenzie, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Quinn Tupaea, Anton Lienert-Brown, Liam Coombes-Fabling, Shaun Stevenson.

Reserves: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Ollie Norris, George Dyer, Jimmy Tupou, Simon Parker, Cortez Ratima, Josh Ioane, Daniel Rona.

Crusaders: George Bower, George Bell, Tamati Williams, Scott Barrett (c), Quinten Strange, Dominic Gardiner, Tom Christie, Cullen Grace, Mitch Drummond, Rivez Reihana, Macca Springer, Dallas McLeod, Levi Aumua, Sevu Reece, Chay Fihaki.

Reserves: Quinten MacDonald, Joe Moody, Owen Franks, Jamie Hannah, Christian Lio-Willie, Noah Hotham, Taha Kemara, Ryan Crotty.