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Crusaders strengthen grip on NZ Conference

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Saturday, June 2, 2018    allblacks.com    Getty Images

The reigning Super Rugby champions have taken a commanding lead at the top of the overall standings on 54 points – nine points ahead of the Hurricanes. For the second week in a row, the Crusaders were forced to reshuffle their lineup due to injuries before kick-off. This week it was All Blacks Jordan Taufua and Jack Goodhue who were ruled out with Jone Macilai and Ethan Blackadder being elevated from the bench.

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The changes did nothing to disrupt the Crusaders continuity as they soaked up all of the Chiefs pressure and took their scoring opportunities to secure the victory.

The Crusaders are a team you cannot afford to let your guard down against, and the Chiefs found out the hard way in the fifth minute. After conceding a penalty close to their line, the Chiefs were punished when Crusaders hooker Codie Taylor took a quick tap and spun the ball to No.8 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis who crashed over in the corner.

Damian McKenzie and Charlie Ngatai have been two of the Chiefs best all season, and played key roles in two quick tries to the home side.

The first one was a brilliantly worked try as the Chiefs spread the Crusaders defence both sides of the field before McKenzie laid on a superb skip pass to put Sean Wainui over. The second try came just two minutes later when Charlie Ngatai hacked a loose ball down field and caused a turnover before impressive loose forward Luke Jacobsen went over.

The Crusaders have been lethal from the lineout all season and had three cracks at the Chiefs line late in the first half. After being repelled twice, the Crusaders broke through the third time when skipper Matt Todd picked up the five-pointer to take the lead at halftime.



The task became bigger for the Chiefs in the second half with the world class Brodie Retallick off with a shoulder injury and the Crusaders scoring early through George Bridge to take a 27-13 lead.

Luke Jacobsen was a pillar of strength for the Chiefs in the tight exchanges and gave the Chiefs some hope when he crashed over for his double following a powerful scrum effort.

There was plenty to play for with just seven points in the game in the final quarter. But the Crusaders defence held firm as the Chiefs running became more desperate as the clock ticked on.

It was the Crusaders who had the final say through a try to Luke Romano to put the game out of reach in the 76th minute. Despite missing a number of All Blacks in their pack, the Crusaders forward power has made the difference all season and it was fitting that a combined forward effort secured the victory.

Scorers:

Chiefs 20 (Sean Wainui, Luke Jacobsen 2 tries, Damian McKenzie pen, con) Crusaders 34 (Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Matt Todd, George Bridge, Luke Romano tries, Richie Mo’unga 3 con, Mitch Hunt con) HT: 13-20