Crusaders dispatch relentless Chiefs
Gavin Rich
July 29, 2017

The Chiefs were relentless but it wasn’t enough to match a Crusaders team that was ruthless in taking every chance that came their way in a 27-13 win in their Vodacom Super Rugby semifinal on Saturday.

Anyone who in future years looks at the statistics relating to possession, territory and tackles made but not at the final score will think that surely the Chiefs won this game. They played almost all the rugby in the first hour, camping in Crusaders territory and forcing the home team into a desperate defence role.

However, while the Chiefs were unable to convert their opportunities in the face of some determined scramble defence, the Crusaders made use of almost every visit into the opposition territory. They had three visits into the Chiefs 22 by the 50 minute mark and it led to two tries and a penalty.

The Chiefs’ domination of possession and territory was not by a small margin. The territory advantage for most of the way was near 70 percent, and the possession was similar. A telling statistic was the halftime tackle count, which read 94 tackles for the Crusaders, 19 of them missed, and just 24 tackles having to be made by the Chiefs.

The Chiefs were relentless in their attacking and carrying of the ball, but the Crusaders were organised and resisted the onslaught, and it has to be said that the Chiefs were a bit unlucky too. The call that went against Tim Nanai-Williams when he looked to have slid over for a try in the 20th minute was a marginal one.

Just before halftime, with the Chiefs having put together a multi-phase attack, referee Glen Jackson also ruled a knock-on right on the Crusaders line that wasn’t altogether clear cut. Instead of being able to sustain their attack, the Chiefs had to settle for a Crusaders put in at a defensive five metre scrum and the Crusaders were able to kick the ball out to end the half.

The Crusaders led 10-6 at the halfway point. Richie Mounga had kicked the first points of the game in the first Crusaders visit to the Chiefs 22 in the 12th minute, and then came a great try off a counter-attack four minutes later. Centre Ryan Crotty broke the initial tackle to set Israel Dagg free down the left flank and the ball was transferred inside for scrumhalf Bryn Hall to complete the score.

Mounga’s conversion made it 10-0 and the pattern of the game was set, with the Crusaders scoring the points even though the Chiefs were dominating the game. The Chiefs should have struck back with a try in the 27th minute, with a cut out pass finding wing James Lowe, who kicked the ball through David Havili’s leg for Nanai-Williams to chase it down. Jackson awarded the try but was then called back by the TMO to have a look at it.

The on-field referee looked a bit bemused when he was told that he had to cancel the try, and Chiefs skipper Aaron Cruden, who was one of several Chiefs personalities involved in what turned out to be their last game for the franchise, questioned the decision in the television interview afterwards. Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie and some of the other backroom personnel joined Cruden in saying adieu to New Zealand rugby in this match.

It was a fortunate let off for the Crusaders even though it didn’t take the Chiefs long after that to raise the flags for a three pointer that put the Hamilton team on the board. The Chiefs dominated the rest of the half but might have felt they deserved more than just one more three pointer from McKenzie and a four point halftime deficit.

Perhaps it was the next score that underlined that it just wasn’t going to be the Chiefs’ night. The Crusaders had kicked a loose ball through into the Chiefs 22 in the 48th minute, with Cruden dropping back to pick it up with several Crusaders players bearing down on him. He passed under pressure to Lowe, who tried to clear it only for Mounga to get his hand to the ball. The tap back fell into the hands of Dagg, who surely could hardly believe his fortune as he waltzed over in the right corner.

It was the product of good kick chase from the Crusaders but at the same time it was also a freakish score, and with the Crusaders going back to more than a score ahead again, the Chiefs had a mountain to climb after that.

The Crusaders’ press defence did appear to trouble the Chiefs in the middle stages of the second half, and there were times when the Chiefs were placed under pressure when trying to attack. The Chiefs’ onfield domination wasn’t as clear cut from the 50th minute onwards, perhaps because of the dual factors of them being demoralised by the score and the legacy of their long flight back from Cape Town during the week. The Crusaders started to get more chances, and Seta Tamanivalu went over in the corner only to be adjudged to have held the ball up.

No matter, off the resulting scrum Tamanivalu popped up outside the first receiver and was unstoppable so close to the line. That made it 22-6 and it was really game, set and match at that point, but Tamanivalu popped up to score again on the right corner to render Brodie Retallick’s 77th minute try for the Chiefs no more than a consolation score.


Crusaders 27 – Tries: Seta Tamanivalu 2, Bryn Hall and Israel Dagg; Conversions: Richie Mounga 2; Penalty: Richie Mounga.

Chiefs 13 – Try: Brodie Retallick; Conversion: Damian McKenzie; Penalties: Damian McKenzie 2.

Castle Lager Outgoing Tour
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17:00 - England vs South Africa
Twickenham, London
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22:05 - France vs South Africa
Stade de France, Paris
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19:20 - Scotland vs South Africa
Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Saturday, November 24 2018
19:20 - Wales vs South Africa
Principality Stadium, Cardiff

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