Super Rugby Aotearoa: Crusaders hold out Chiefs, Blues continue perfect run

Super Rugby - Aotearoa
AFP
by AFP

A Will Jordan double has helped the Crusaders to a 18-13 win over the Chiefs, their second Super Rugby Aotearoa win and 35th straight home victory.

The Chiefs have now lost three from three, the Wellington Hurricanes have lost two from two and the Otago Highlanders gave a win and a loss.

It was a battle of attrition in Christchurch with the tone set midweek when Crusaders prop Joe Moody talked of a "deep-seated hatred" of the Chiefs, which gave visiting coach Warran Gatland all the ammunition he needed for his pre-match pep talk.

With the constant rain forcing handling errors and dictating a bruising forward clash with lots of kicking by the backs, the result came down to the Crusaders capitalising on the two opportunities that went their way.

"We knew it was going to be a confrontational game and we had to make sure the breakdown was really clean," Crusaders captain Codie Taylor said

"A young fella like Will Jordan who's on his toes and just wants to get involved and it's awesome to see the boys backing their skills especially in conditions like this."

Chiefs captain Sam Cane called it a "classic arm wrestle" which came down to the Crusaders making the most of key moments.


"There wasn't much between the two sides and credit to the Crusaders, a couple of opportunistic tries, and a couple of moments can really swing a game," Cane said.

The Chiefs, who beat the Crusaders earlier this year before the coronavirus pandemic brought a halt to global sport, could claim to have had the better of the first half territorially.

But, they could not break the Crusaders defence and their sole reward was a Damian McKenzie penalty.

The Crusaders, however, were rewarded from a lineout steal when the Chiefs were on attack.

Sevu Reece beat McKenzie in the air to reclaim Richie Mo'unga's clearing kick and sent Jordan away for the try.

Jordan's second try early in the second half came from another Chiefs error when an Aaron Cruden pass went into touch.

While the Chiefs switched off believing there would be a reset for a lineout, Reece took a quick throw-in to Jordan rushing up from fullback and he ran 30 metres untouched to the line.

The Chiefs bagged 10 points early in the final quarter with a converted try to Sean Wainui and another McKenzie penalty but could not find a way through the Crusaders in the closing 10 minutes.

 

RESULT

Crusaders 18

Tries: Jordan 2

Cons: Mo’unga

Pens: Mo’unga 2

Chiefs 13

Tries: Wainui

Cons: McKenzie

Pens: McKenzie 2

BLUES vs HIGHLANDERS

Two tries to Dalton Papali'i and the muscle of Hoskins Sotutu helped the Auckland Blues maintain their unbeaten run in New Zealand's Super Rugby competition when they came from behind to beat the Otago Highlanders 27-24 on Saturday.

Sotutu's power to twice deny the Highlanders late scoring opportunities would have impressed not only the All Blacks selectors but also those in England and Fiji.

The uncapped 21-year-old backrower is shaping up as a likely replacement for the now retired Kieran Read but with a Fijian father and English mother he is an obvious target for all three countries.


After Papali'i's second try put the Blues ahead midway through the second half, the Highlanders staged repeated attacks on the Aucklanders' line. But in the closing minutes, a strong lineout drive was held up by Sotutu who then stole Highlanders ball at the next lineout to ensure the Blues victory.

Captain Patrick Tuipulotu said the Aucklanders have found a self-confidence that was missing when they were one of the worst performing New Zealand sides.

"A couple of years ago, even last year we weren't able to hang on we didn't have the composure. I'm proud of the fact we managed to do that now," he said.

"We're comfortable backing our defence for long periods of time."

It was a finish that left Highlanders skipper Ash Dixon dejected after his side had turned a 22-10 deficit at half-time into a 24-22 lead 12 minutes after the resumption.

"We had two opportunities there to go right down to the death but didn't take our chances. I thought we did enough to get it but obviously we came out on the other side of the scoreboard."

A succession of tactical kicks to put pressure on young Highlanders fullback Scott Gregory helped the Blues build a first half lead with tries to Caleb Clarke, Papali'i and Rieko Ioane with Otere Black landing two conversions and a penalty.

Ioane's try ended a long-range counter-attack sparked by Beauden Barrett from the Blues 22.

The Highlanders' first half points came from a try to Dixon converted by Mitchell Hunt who also landed a penalty.

In the opening stages of the second half, Hunt broke through the Blues defence to score near the posts and Shannon Frizell drove over the line and with both conversions successful the Highlanders were two points ahead.

The Blues' response, with Ioane in the sin bin, was to turn to their forwards and Papali'I again obliged with a try and they clung to a three point lead for the closing 22 minutes.

RESULT

Blues 27

Tries: Papali'i 2, Clarke, Ioane

Cons: Black 2

Pens: Black

Highlanders 24

Tries: Dixon, Hunt, Frizell

Cons: Hunt 3

Pens: Hunt