Super Rugby Aotearoa: Short-handed Crusaders outlast Chiefs for fifth straight title

Despite playing two men short for five minutes, the Crusaders have outlasted the Chiefs for their fifth Super Rugby crown in as many years in Christchurch.

Ahead 15-10 midway through the second half, the southerners lost hooker Codie Taylor for 10 minutes, after he tackled Chiefs fullback Damian McKenzie in midair. Moments later, they also lost winger Sevu Reece for a high shot on counterpart Chase Tiatia, leaving the titleholders scrambling to defend their advantage.

McKenzie slotted a penalty from Reece's indiscretion, but missed three others that could have given his side a lead and by the time they were back to full strength, the Crusaders had restored their margin, and extended it through pinpoint goalkicking from Richie Mo'unga.

Reece struck first for the champions, standing up McKenzie to score the opening try and converting from the sideline in the seventh minute.

McKenzie slotted a penalty to get the visitors on the board, but the Crusaders had their second try, when second-five David Havili kicked behind the defence and Will Jordan gathered to score.

McKenzie had his moment midway through the first half, after the Chiefs put 13 men into an attacking lineout and when the ball emerged, Alex Nankivell found a half gap and threw a long backhanded pass for his fullback to score in the corner.

Another Mo'unga penalty had the Crusaders five points ahead at halftime, before the flurry of yellow cards threatened to derail their title bid.

Super Rugby Aotearoa: Short-handed Crusaders outlast Chiefs for fifth straight title

After so many starring moments and winning contributions through the season, McKenzie's goalkicking woes could not have come at a worse time, preventing the Chiefs from taking full toll of their two-man advantage.

Mo'unga stepped up a level down the stretch, kicking his first-ever Super Rugby drop goal to keep his team ahead.

With five minutes remaining, he provided the game's defining play, kicking deep into the Chiefs 22, chasing and tackling Tiatia, who was penalised for not releasing the ball. Mo'unga slotted the kick at goal to make the game safe.

Coach Scott Robertson celebrated success in traditional manner, unleashing his popular breakdance routine on the Orangetheory Stadium pitch.

The Crusaders brought their home playoff record to 24 wins from as many games - including six finals - and now set their sights on another title, when the inaugural Super Rugby Trans-Tasman kicks off next week.

Crusaders 24 (Reece & Jordan tries; Mo'unga drop goal, conversion & 3 penalties) Chiefs 13 (McKenzie try, conversion & 2 penalties)

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