The Chiefs kept their playoff hopes alive with a sensational 40-27 bonus-point win over the Crusaders on Saturday.
The result means that the Chiefs are now in the eight place on the overall log with 31 points – just one point clear of the Lions who face the Stormers later.
The crowd in Suva certainly created a very electric atmosphere for the Chiefs’ last ‘home’ game of the season, which could be labelled as one of the most sensational comebacks in the history of Super Rugby.
Usually, Crusaders found a way to salvage a draw, but this time Chiefs, captained by Sam Cane, were up for the challenge and managed to keep their composure.
The Crusaders held a 20-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Then the Waikato side switched into overdrive – starting with a Solomon Alaimalo try on the 29th-minute mark.
The Crusaders opened the scoring with a successful penalty kick from Richie Mo’unga. Minutes later, out of nowhere they sealed the first try of the match. Capitalizing on a Chiefs’ error, centre Ryan Crotty pounced on the loose ball before his neatly timed off-load found Scott Barrett, who outpaced centre pair Anton Lienert-Brown and Alex Nankivell for five-pointer.
Mo’unga added the extra for the 10-0 lead after just 12 minutes.
The Champions were in fine form and look well on their way to victory as they dominated proceedings. They found heaps of gaps in the Chiefs’ defence and scored two easy tries – courtesy of Mitchell Drummond and Sevu Reece – in space of eight minutes.
The Chiefs found it difficult to cope with the Crusaders’ attack. Not only were they down 20 points, but the hosts were also forced to make more than 40 tackles and struggled to get possession.
However, on the 29th-minute mark, things turned and the hosts finally got possession and just ignited as Chiefs Tyler Adron collected the ball and shifted it to Solomon Alaimalo, who bamboozled David Havili with great footwork before scoring the Chiefs’ first try.
As the break moved closer Colin Cooper’s troops were determined to narrow the deficit and camped on the Crusaders’ five-metre line. After consecutive phases and pure patience, Samisoni Taukei’aho finally powered his way over the line.
After missing the first conversion, this time Jack Debreczeni made no mistake to add the extras narrow the deficit to just eight.
Just before the break, Chiefs were at it again, some great interchanging play by No.8 Pita Gus Sowakula and Lienert-Brown saw Jesse Parete concluded a great a team try for the hosts. Debreczeni closed the gap to just one point.
In the second half, the Crusaders restored their scoreboard dominance as the backline linked up perfectly to send Braydon Ennor over the line for the try. Mo’unga added the conversion for the 27-19 lead.
The comfortable lead was short-lived as Chiefs scrumhalf Brad Weber handed his side a lifeline with a decisive burst for an impressive try. Debreczeni made sure to add the extra.
And with 10 minutes left on the clock, the drama unfolded. The Chiefs worked through the midfield and inched their way forward, before an inside ball from Debreczeni to Shaun Stevenson, made sure the wing broke the line for the try. Debreczeni made sure to slot over the easy conversion as the side took the lead for the first time in the match.
With a 33-27 lead, the Chiefs were ruthless until the final minute and were fully rewarded for their efforts as Tumua Manu went over the line for the final try and the historic victory.
Man of the match: It was certainly fast pace and there were some exciting moves produced by the respective backline players like Savu Reece, David Havili and the Chiefs Anton Lienert-Brown and Solomon Alaimalo, however, their defence let them down. Our nod goes to the Chiefs captain Sam Cane for he impressive performance, especially at the breakdown.
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