The Saturday night clash had fans on the edge of their seats as the Chiefs took on the Crusaders in Hamilton. Once again, Damian McKenzie nailed crucial points in the final minutes of the game, securing the win for the home side.
The Crusaders celebrated 100 games for Mitch Drummond in the red and black jersey, and were coming into the game with a fresh lineup after injuries last week.
Despite changes to the team the Crusaders played to their strengths from the start, pushing Leicester Fainga’anuku over the try line from a strong set piece in the first five minutes. A conversion from Richie Mo’unga gave the visitors an early 7 point lead.
However, several early penalty concessions from the Crusaders allowed Damian McKenzie to put the Chiefs back in front by two points. Half an hour into the game Richie Mo’unga put another three points on the board. To build on this score, some well-recycled ball and great footwork saw Will Jordan across the try line – the conversion extending the Crusader’s lead to 9-17 going into halftime.
A fired up Chiefs side started the second half with some good ball movement and a couple of breaks put the Crusaders under pressure on their own line.
The Chiefs managed to push over flanker Lachlan Boshier between the posts at 47 minutes, the converted try closing the score again to 16-17.
Opportunity soon arose as the Chiefs were held on their own try line, and the Crusaders used a line out play to get Codie Taylor through the defence. The Chiefs responded by making the most of broken play, with some great ball movement sending Jonah Lowe to the corner for another converted try. The score was now sitting at 23-22 to the home team.
The final 15 minutes saw Mo’unga add another three points to the board, but it was the crucial penalty against the Crusaders that allowed Damian McKenzie to get the Chiefs back on top of the scoreboard, with only two and a half minutes to go. Despite efforts to set up a last-minute drop-goal, a final penalty was conceded and the Crusaders captain’s referral was denied.
The final score landed at 26-25 to the home side, as the Chiefs continue their winning momentum in the competition.
Chiefs 26 (Lachlan Boshier, Jonah Lowe tries; Damian McKenzie 2 con, 4 pen) Crusaders 25 (Leicester Fainga'anuku, Will Jordan, Codie Taylor tries; Richie Mo’unga 2 con, 2 pen). HT: 9-17