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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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