All Blacks first-five eighth Dan Carter sparked the Crusaders to a 25-19 win over the Chiefs in their Super 15 rugby match at Nelson's McLean Park tonight.
The re-signing of Carter was the biggest news in New Zealand sport this week and the Crusaders number ten demonstrated his highly sought after skill-set with a personal tally of 20 points in an accomplished display.
Pre-match expectations had billed the Napier clash as an attacking showdown between the high-flying Crusaders and a desperate Chiefs outfit looking to prolong their Super 15 season to the playoff round.
Yet it was the Crusaders pivot's intelligent decision-making and attacking movement around the pitch which was the catalyst for scoring chances.
Carter kicked a penalty in the third minute to give his side an early lead after the Chiefs were penalised after an infringement at the breakdown.
Despite the Crusaders having favourable territory position in the opening 15 minutes, his opposite Stephen Donald responded with two penalties after flanker George Whitelock was penalised on separate occasions for ruck infringements.
With number of handling errors proving costly for both sides from finishing their try scoring opportunities, Carter's attacking brilliance almost came out trumps for the Crusaders in the 30th minute.
Receiving the ball in his 22, he jinked his way past the tackle of hooker Hika Elliot to burst clear and run 60 metres, holding off two Chiefs players his offload to fullback Tom Marshall went astray and found a black jersey instead of a red.
Although the Chiefs led for the majority of the first half the Crusaders were fortunate to go into the break on par with the away side as Carter stepped up to land a penalty from in front on the halftime siren.
After a sombre opening forty minutes the Crusaders scored the first try of the match in the 43rd minute through the unlikely figure of lock Luke Romano.
Scoring his second try of his Super Rugby career Romano's five-pointer was a standout effort, as he met halfback Willi Heinz' pass on an angled run to step past prop Ben Afeaki before fending away Brendon Leonard's tackle to score from 20 metres out. Carter converted.
Carter extended the lead to 19-6 with two more penalties for a 13-point stretch as the Crusaders forwards began to stamp their dominance on the opposition pack.
Donald brought brief respite to the Crusaders surge with a penalty in the 50th minute, yet the Chiefs were struggling to cross the halfway mark as the home side powered to victory.
Carter increased the lead with a 73rd minute drop goal to have side sitting at 25-12 lead with four minutes before Chiefs captain Liam Messam powered over from a metre out on the fulltime siren to gain a consolation try and a valuable bonus point.
(Luke Romano try Daniel Carter con 5 pens drop goal) bt
(Liam Messam try Stephen Donald con 4 pens) at McLean Park. Referee: Stuart Dickinson.
- Herald online / NZPA