Super Rugby Pacific: Chiefs' second-half blitz stuns defending champions Crusaders in 2023 opener at Christchurch

A second-half Chiefs' blitz has stunned the defending champion Crusaders at Christchurch in the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific opener.

The visitors trailed 10-7 at halftime, but scored 24 unanswered points to silence the Orangetheory Stadium crowd and take the spoils.

Cortez Ratima scores.
Cortez Ratima scores. Photo credit: Getty Images

With wild weather hammering much of New Zealand, the slippery conditions failed to discourage either side from playing an up-tempo game.

All Blacks loose forward Ethan Blackadder marked his return from injury with a couple of encouraging runs in the opening exchanges.

Crusaders first-five Richie Mo'unga had the first opportunity to open the scoring with a penalty kick, but missed an easy shot at goal following a dominant scrum win.

The home team were dealt an early setback however, losing No.8 Cullen Grace to a shoulder injury, before Chiefs first-five Damian McKenzie missed a penalty kick of his own.

But Mo'unga would make soon amends, nailing a drop goal from right in front while his team had back-to-back penalty advantages.

The Crusaders continued to pile the pressure on, forcing Chiefs captain Sam Cane to infringe to protect his tryline, before being shown a yellow card.

They then made their numerical advantage count moments later, with fullback David Havili crashing over for the game's first try. 

After turning down an automatic three from right in front of the goalposts, the Crusaders decided to tap and found a charging Havili to reach over and score.

With the Chiefs desperate to waste time until Cane rejoined the action, McKenzie lined up another shot at goal, only to slice it well short of the mark.

The Crusaders looked to be in again through prop Fletcher Newell, but he was helped up over the tryline.

The Chiefs would finally find respite through veteran lock Brodie Rettalick, who capped off a monster half to score his team's first try.

Halfback Brad Weber made a clever snipe from behind the ruck, before Rettalick rode two tackles to touch down.

Crusaders hooker Codie Taylor looked to have hit back minutes later, but was penalised instead after he rejoined his side's driving maul.

The halftime break would bring a complete swing in momentum, as the Chiefs took the lead through Cane after a McKenzie 50/22 kick.

Weber again, was instrumental in the lead-up, timing his pop-up pass to perfection, allowing the flanker to crash over for the go-ahead score.

It was then the Crusaders' turn to have a player sent to the bin, with Blackadder shown a yellow card for making contact with the opposition's head.

Like the Crusaders, the Chiefs made the Crusaders pay for their indiscretion, with Alex Nankivell diving over for the try.

After tapping the ball, the Chiefs looked to attack through a set move, only for the pass to fall short and replacement Josh Ioane to cleverly bat it on to Nankivell to score.

The Chiefs dominated the possession in the second half and continued the tick the scoreboard over, with McKenzie extending the lead through a penalty kick.

A botched Mo'unga restart compounded the Crusaders' woes, as the Chiefs would cross the white chalk again through one of their many impressive substitutes.

Ioane showed the ball to his left, before finding a surging Cortez Ratima on the inside, who showed great acceleration and strength to fend off Leicester Fainga'anuku and score the try to seal an emphatic round-one win.

Crusaders 10 (Havili try; Mo'unga 1x pen)
Chiefs 31 (Rettalick, Cane, Nankivell, Ratima tries; McKenzie 4x con, 1 pen)