Chiefs win thriller in Suva

The Chiefs have pulled off one of the most incredible comebacks in their history to defeat the BNZ Crusaders 40-27 in Suva and keep their slim playoff hopes alive.


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Photo courtesy of Getty Images


After just 20 minutes the Chiefs were down by 20 points and looked down and out before an incredible late half assault closed the halftime gap to 19-20. The Chiefs continued to throw caution to the wind in the second half and sealed the match in the 78th minute when replacement midfielder Tumua Manu pounced on a short kick off from the Crusaders to send the Suva crowd into raptures.

The Chiefs and Crusaders have had a lively rivalry in Fiji with one win each prior to this encounter, but this is a match that will be remembered for a long time in the Fijian capital.

The Crusaders struck first in the 12th minute through a Ryan Crotty-Scott Barrett double-act. Crotty sparked it with a midfield intercept before Barrett showed pace more accustomed to his two brothers to finish it from 40 metres out. Two further tries, one a close range effort from Mitchell Drummond and the other a fan favourite try out wide from Sevu Reece, stretched the Crusaders out to a 0-20 lead after just 20 minutes. 

Even the most ardent Chiefs fan would have considered switching the channel at this point but the Chiefs had other ideas. In a scarcely believable nine minute period, the Chiefs cut the Crusaders defence to score three tries and close the gap to 19-20. All three tries came from long range with Solomon Alaimalo leaving David Havili grasping for air in finishing off the first one. The next try was finished off by Samisoni Taukei’aho before the Chiefs capped off the half with one of the tries of the season. Anton Lienert-Brown made the initial break from the kick off before Pita Gus Sowakula, Brad Weber, Alex Nankivell and Atu Moli all combined to put Jesse Parete over.

The Crusaders then scored in the 42nd minute, through Braydon Ennor, to take the lead to 19-27.

It could have been a hammer blow for the Chiefs, but they laid on an offloading masterclass in the 47th minute to close the gap to one point through a Brad Weber try. The Chiefs' confidence continued to grow through the half and a brilliant solo try to Shaun Stevenson in the 66th minute saw them take the lead for the first time. Up by just six points, it looked like the Chiefs were about to let the game slip as the Crusaders pressed on the line in the 75th minute. Sam Cane showed his class with a brave turnover to stymie the Crusaders final chance on the line, before Tumua Manu put the game out of reach. 


Scorers: Chiefs 40 (Solomon Alaimalo, Samison Taukei’aho, Jesse Parete, Brad Weber, Shaun Stevenson, Tumua Manu tries, Jack Debreczeni 5 con) BNZ Crusaders 27 (Scott Barrett, Mitchell Drummond, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor tries, Richie Mo’unga 2 con, pen). HT: 19-20


Match report courtesy of www.superrugby.co.nz 

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Image courtesy of Photosport - Official Photographer of the BNZ Crusaders
Right wing Sevu Reece had a try disallowed that would have secured the match for the visitors. Reece had received the ball from replacement Braydon Ennor and then chipped ahead and had the benefit of the bounce to touch down. But the TMO ruled Ennor's pass had been forward. It was a cruel blow for the Crusaders who then had to withstand a final storming effort by the home side. In the process they conceded a penalty on the final hooter which was kicked home by replacement five-eighth Jean-Luc du Plessis. 
The Crusaders out-scored the Stormers three tries to one but the home team landed four penalty goals. Spearheaded by their loose forwards, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Siya Kolisi, with lock Eben Etzebeth and prop Steven Kitshoff, the Stormers took the game to the Crusaders from the outset and forced them to make 115 tackles to 87, while also winning the breakdown battle 74-62. The Crusaders also conceded 13 penalties to eight by the home team. 
Lock Scott Barrett had a big game taking the challenge to the Stormers' defence while Jordan Taufua, who started ahead of Kieran Read, also made some strong runs at the defence. First five-eighth Richie Mo'unga provided the most problems for the Stormers with his tactical direction of the Crusaders' game. 
The Stormers struck first from a lineout after the Crusaders conceded a scrum penalty. With a bunched group in midfield, Kolisi ran onto a long pass and split the defence to run 22 unchallenged metres and score after six minutes. 
The Crusaders' defence was given a workout but the Stormers were unable to find a way through and the visitors ground their way back down field with their own continuity play. After the Stormers were penalised the Crusaders kicked to the corner. From the lineout take by Barrett at the front they moved the maul on the short side where flanker Matt Todd was driven over the line to score in the 29th minute. 
More Stormers infringing resulted in the Crusaders kicking to the corner once more. They worked a variation on their front of lineout move but were unable to get the ball over the line. A scrum was called and with the Crusaders under penalty advantage, the ball was cleared to Mo'unga under pressure. He lobbed a kick to the goalmouth where fullback David Havili leapt to take the ball and score five minutes out from halftime. 
Three minutes into the second half from a ruck, the ball was cleared to Mo'unga who threw a long pass across the backline to hooker Codie Taylor. He ran hard into space and fed Ennor who had too much speed down the sideline to score. 
Scorers: Stormers 19 (Siya Kolisi try; Josh Stander con, 2 pen; Jean-Luc de Plessis 2 pen) BNZ Crusaders 19 (Matt Todd, David Havili, Braydon Ennor tries Richie Mo'unga 2 con). HT: 10-12 
Match report courtesy of www.superrugby.co.nz

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