WELLINGTON (AFP) – A Sean Wainui try midway through the second half set up a 25-15 victory for the Waikato Chiefs over the Canterbury Crusaders in a bruising clash between the two New Zealand heavyweights in Hamilton yesterday.
Chiefs captain Sam Cane called it a “brutal” affair as his side, for the second week in a row, overcame a half-time deficit to maintain a 100 per cent start to the Super Rugby season for coach Warren Gatland.
They also denied the Crusaders a bonus point with an Aaron Cruden penalty goal just before full-time stretching the margin to 10.
It was the defending champion Crusaders who dictated terms in the first half and they turned with a 12-8 advantage.
But the key moment came with 25 minutes remaining and the score locked at 15-all when Chiefs scrum-half Brad Weber was tackled front-on by Bryn Hall.
Weber managed to slip the ball around the back of the Crusaders scrum-half to Wainui who ran 30 metres for the decisive try.
“The Crusaders are class so it’s good to get one over them,” Cane said.
“The thing you notice about these derbies and these matches that have a bit riding on them is that they are a bit personal, they’re physical, they’re brutal, and there were some big moments in that game that could have gone either way.”
Crusaders captain Scott Barrett called his side together at the final whistle and told them not to forget the feeling because “we don’t like losing. We made too many errors”.
There was no shortage of attacking skill and bone-crunching tackles from both sides and when the Crusaders could not find a way through the Chiefs’ wall in the opening exchanges it took a well-weighted cross-kick from David Havili to Sevu Reece to open the scoring.
A handy Cruden penalty put the Chiefs on the board before Havili and Reece combined again for the Crusaders’ second try when a 30-metre pass from the flyhalf put the All Blacks wing into the clear.
The Chiefs’ sole try in the first half came from Damian McKenzie joining the line to create an overlap and send Solomon Alaimalo over.
The Crusaders turned down three shots at goal late in the half as they searched for a third try but came up empty handed.
The Chiefs hit the front for the first time just after the resumption when Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi crashed over with Cruden adding the conversion.