Monday, April 18, 2011
Classy Crusaders too strong for Chiefs
Crusaders 34 Chiefs 16
The Crusaders had too much class for a tenacious Chiefs side, winning their stirring Super Rugby match 34-16 in Mt Maunganui tonight.
Scoring four tries to one, the competition favourites secured the win that most expected but not without surviving a fierce challenge from the hosts, who produced probably their best performance of a mixed season to date in front of a braying crowd at Baypark Stadium.
Weaknesses at scrum and lineout time cost the Chiefs dearly while the Crusaders took their opportunities better, crossing through centre Robbie Fruean in the fourth minute, winger Sean Maitland in the 17th, reserve halfback Andy Ellis in the 54th and reserve lock Luke Romano in the 76th.
First five-eighth Matt Berquist converted all four and landed two penalties in a 14-point haul.
His opposite Mike Delany booted 11 points but the Chiefs crossed just once, through winger Lelia Masaga in the 11th minute to hand them a 10-7 lead.
But they couldn't hold out a Crusaders side who cut down on an uncharacteristically high error count as a match that was as scrappy as it was compelling wore on.
One highlight was the first playing appearance in 2011 of All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, who returned from injury and came off the bench in a solid outing for the game's last half-hour.
His performance was eclipsed by the man who many believe will one day wear his black No 7 jersey, with Matt Todd a consistent force at the breakdown.
For the Chiefs, veteran fullback Mils Muliaina also looked sharp in a return from injury.
His side were rocked when key flanker Tanerau Latimer exited in just the second minute after clashing heads with Owen Franks when trying to tackle the powerhouse Crusaders prop.
CRUSADERS 34 (Andrew Ellis, Robert Fruean, Sean Maitland, Luke Romano tries Matthew Berquist 4 cons 2 pens) bt CHIEFS 16 (Lelia Masaga try Michael Delany con 3 pens) at Waikato Stadium.
Referee: Craig Joubert.