The BNZ Crusaders have avenged their 2016 loss to the Chiefs in Suva with a stunning 31-24 victory over the Chiefs at the same venue.

While last year’s encounter in Fiji was a slugfest in the wet, this time the rampant Fijian crowd were treated to a pulsating encounter as the lead see-sawed all the way through the contest.

The Chiefs scored four tries to three but it was the BNZ Crusaders who held their composure in the end to secure their twelfth-straight win in 2017. 

Against the Hurricanes last week, the BNZ Crusaders defence was impenetrable and looked just as strong this week as they leapt to a 6-0 lead through two Richie Mo’unga penalties after 20 minutes.

But holes began to open up in the BNZ Crusaders defence as their lead defensive organisor Ryan Crotty left the field due to a head knock. Within five minutes of Crotty leaving the field, the Chiefs had crossed for tries on either wing to Tim Nanai-Williams and James Lowe to take a 10-6 lead. 

In what was to become a theme for the match, the BNZ Crusaders struck back almost immediately to steal the lead back. Centre Josh Goodhue showed great skills to break through the line and execute a superb offload from the deck to put loose forward Heiden Bedwell-Curtis over.

The game showed no signs of slowing down as Aaron Cruden and Damian McKenzie took advantage of Crotty’s absence by cutting through the BNZ Crusaders line to put the Chiefs on attack. 

The battle upfront was fierce and Chiefs prop Kane Hames was rewarded for all his toil when he crashed over from close range to make it 17-13 at halftime. 

The BNZ Crusaders have been the standout team in 2017 and showed why by taking a stranglehold on the game in the second half. Tries to reserve hooker Ben Funnell and impressive fullback David Havili and a brace of penalties to Richie Mo’unga made it 28-17 with just ten minutes to play.

Instrumental first five-eighth Aaron Cruden gave the Chiefs hope when he sliced through from a simple move to make it 28-24 with a five minutes remaining.

Mo’unga continued his kicking masterclass to slot his fourth penalty to extend the Crusaders advantage to a converted try.

The Chiefs had two lineouts close to the Crusaders line in the final minutes, but couldn’t secure their own ball as the BNZ Crusaders closed out a thrilling victory.

SCORERS:

Chiefs 24 (Tim Nanai-Williams, James Lowe, Kane Hames, tries, Aaron Cruden try, con, Damian McKenzie con)

Crusaders 31 (Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, David Havili, Ben Funnell tries, Richie Mo’unga 4 pen, 2 con

HT: 17-13