Chiefs lose close battle with Crusaders

By Peter White

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HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 12: Augustine Pulu of the Chiefs is tackled by Nic Stirzaker of the Rebels during the round nine Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Rebels at Waikato Stadium o
HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 12: Augustine Pulu of the Chiefs is tackled by Nic Stirzaker of the Rebels during the round nine Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Rebels at Waikato Stadium o

The Crusaders beat the Chiefs 18-17 in a physical battle of attrition at Waikato Stadium tonight.

It was a special night for Bay of Plenty's favourite son Tanerau Latimer, who became just the second Chiefs player to make 100 appearances in the jersey after Liam Messam.

The first 40 minutes was a brutal affair with tough defence and even tougher hits going in from both sides that were not always legal.

Goal kicking wizards Colin Slade (Crusaders) and Gareth Anscombe (Chiefs) kept the scoreboard ticking over at 9-9 after a turbulent opening quarter with three players off for concussion tests.

There was certainly no quarter given in this crucial clash in the New Zealand Conference.

Crusaders lock Dominic Bird was sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes after a blatant shoulder charge sent Chiefs No 8 Liam Squire out of the game. Bay of Plenty's All Blacks flanker Sam Cane replaced him.

Crusaders captain Kieran Reid and Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr Barlow were also out of the game after heavy knocks to the head.

Anscombe kicked his fourth penalty to put the Chiefs in front 12-9 before some great work from Cane set up a turnover, which former Crusader Tom Marshall cleverly finished off with a try in the corner as the siren sounded.

Halftime: Chiefs 17 Crusaders 9.

The Chiefs started the second spell with 26 phases in possession attacking the Crusaders line but the defence held.

Slade closed the gap to 17-12 with a penalty and then hit the post with a sitter from in front.

The unyielding battle between the evenly matched foes continued without further scoring until the 68th minute when Slade finally kicked another penalty after hitting the post again with another shot.

Bay of Plenty front rowers Nathan Harris and Josh Hohneck joined the fray for the Chiefs.

Slade kicked his 6th penalty to regain the lead for the Crusaders with 10 minutes to play.

Crucially, the Chiefs had an attacking lineout feed ruled out with just two minutes play after a video review of a late tackle on Andy Ellis, and then in the final play of the match won a penalty on halfway.

Up stepped Anscombe with a difficult kick in misty conditions from 52 metres but the ball flew just left of the posts to give the Crusaders the win.

Crusaders 18 (Colin Slade 6 pens) Chiefs 17 (Tom Marshall try; Gareth Anscombe 4 pens). Halftime: Chiefs 17-9

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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