Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Crusaders crush Chiefs

The Crusaders celebrate a try during their 43-15 win over the Chiefs. Photo / Getty Images
The Crusaders celebrate a try during their 43-15 win over the Chiefs. Photo / Getty Images

Crusaders 43 Chiefs 15
The Crusaders have stunned the Chiefs tonight in a match which was supposed to answer a few questions about the two best teams in the New Zealand conference. Instead, it raised several more.

No two ways about it, the Crusaders humbled the defending champions, a new phenomenon for Dave Rennie's men, and to some extent, Todd Blackadder's.

The most pertinent question is how will the Chiefs respond to this calamity in Christchurch? They needed only a bonus point to finish top of the New Zealand conference. Instead they got their tails kicked back to Hamilton.

It was an inspired performance by the Crusaders who had major contributors all over the field. Skipper Kieran Read was inspired, scoring two of the his side's five tries. Israel Dagg had his best game in a red and black jersey this season and prop Wyatt Crockett put in not only a massive effort in the set pieces, he was also everywhere in open play.

The Chiefs will bounce back. Next weekend they face what will be a travel-weary Blues in Auckland and are likely to get the result they want to finish on top - and deservedly for they have been more consistent than the Crusaders so far this season.

But, after handing the Highlanders a bit of a hiding last weekend, the Crusaders carried on their impressive form. This bonus point win puts them fourth. A win over the Hurricanes at AMI Stadium next weekend and they will host a qualifying match at worst.

Rennie's men were quickly on the back foot thanks to the directness of the Crusaders forwards and their own offending at the breakdown, referee Jonathon White handing Chiefs skipper Craig Clarke a general warning.

But while the home side dominated early, the Chiefs held out until just under the halftime hooter when Read scored.

It was a significant blow. Denied from a similar position by Bundee Aki in their first clash in Hamilton in May, Read managed to ground the ball despite the attentions of Sam Cane and Tawera Kerr-Barlow.

The try, from a dominant scrum, was important because there were other echos of his side's Hamilton loss in the Chiefs' try to Aseali Tikoirotuma minutes earlier. Aaron Cruden - who charged down a Carter clearance to score in that match - was at again when disrupting Dagg's attempted kick, regathering and almost going in under the posts.

Kerr-Barlow's kick got the deserved reward - the Crusaders offending at the ruck - when Tikoirotuma cleaned up the scraps.

Liam Messam failed to show for the Chiefs after hurting his back during the week, which meant a start for Ross Filipo - his second of the season and first since his knee injury four months ago.

Messam's absence was keenly felt, but even the presence of All Black Messam wouldn't have helped his team's cause that much.

Dagg's try just after halftime was the dagger. It put the score out to 26-8 and it was quickly followed by Read's second, a good reward for the No8.

Ryan Crotty's try in the corner was the Crusaders' fourth, with Dagg once again featuring. For once, the Chiefs had few answers.

The Crusaders' sole concern is likely to be the ankle injury to Luke Romano which forced him from the field.

Charlie Ngatai scored a consolation for the Chiefs but replacement Tyler Bleyendaal, appropriately, had the last say for the Crusaders with a long-range intercept.

Crusaders 43 (Kieran Read 2, Israel Dagg, Ryan Crotty, Tyler Bleyendaal tries; Carter 3 cons, 4 pens) Chiefs 15 (Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Charlie Ngatai tries; Andrew Horrell con, Aaron Cruden pen ). HT: 19-8.

- APNZ

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