Learnings and debuts from Crusaders season opener versus the Chiefs
The skies cleared just in time for the Crusaders to take on the Chiefs in a banger of a Super Rugby Pacific opener in Christchurch.
More than 9000 turned out to Orangetheory Stadium for the 7.06pm kick-off, on a night when the Tall Blacks were playing next door and the city was hosting a flood relief concert across town.
The Chiefs ended up putting one up on the reigning Super Rugby Pacific champions, final score 31-10 to the visitors.
David Havili, playing full-back, scored the first try of the season in the 20th minute, followed by a quick conversion from Richie Mo’unga – you’ll remember there are new law variations and time limits this season. This followed a 13th minute drop goal from Richie Mo’unga which opened the scoring.
The Chiefs nearly leveled the score before halftime with a try from lock Brodie Retallick, converted by Damien McKenzie in the No. 10 jersey. 10-7 when the field retreated to the sheds for oranges.
That was the lot for points scored by the red and black, with the Chiefs putting up another 24 in the second half with tries from Sam Cane, Alex Nankivell and Cortez Ratima, and three conversions and a penalty from Damien McKenzie.
“They put us under pressure throughout you know, they were good,” said Scott Robertson to gathered media post-match – the Crusaders Head Coach eyeing a seventh title in as many years.
“It felt like a finals level game straight off in the first round.”
Asked what they do as a team when faced with defeat, Robertson said naturally the first thing was “to congratulate the Chiefs on a good performance – you do that when you get beaten”.
“Then as individuals and coaches, we’ll have some conversations with ourselves to make sure we move forward and learn from it.
“A lot of our players will be better for that game I feel. In the end it was small margins that won the game.”
There were two Crusaders debuts on offer on Friday night, with both Christian Lio-Willie and Macca Springer taking the field for the first time – big moments for the new recruits and a view to the future for the team.
Crusaders 10 (David Havili try, Richie Mo'unga con, dg) Chiefs 31 (Sam Cane, Alex Nankivell, Brodie Retallick, Cortez Ratima tries, Damian McKenzie 4 con, 1 pen)
HT: Crusaders 10, Chiefs 7
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe
Assistant Referees: Stu Curran, Jackson Henshaw