Super Rugby Pacific: Chiefs extend unbeaten streak to nine games with nailbiting win over champion Crusaders

The Chiefs have come from behind late to extend their Super Rugby Pacific winning streak to nine games, overcoming the champion Crusaders 34-24 at Hamilton's FMG Stadium.

After conceding a penalty try and losing No.8 Luke Jacobson to a yellow card, the home side fell behind 21-19 and then again 24-22 with less than 10 minutes remaining, but rallied with late tries to fullback Shaun Stevenson and replacement hooker Tyrone Thompson to snatch the honours.

Thompson sealed victory, after the Chiefs scrum overpowered their illustrious counterparts against the feed five metres out from the tryline, scoring from the subsequent tap.

Tamaiti Williams braces for impact against the Chiefs
Tamaiti Williams braces for impact against the Chiefs. Photo credit: Photosport

"Crusaders have one of the better scrums in the comp, so credit to our boys up front," observed Chiefs captain Sam Cane. "They've put in a lot of work this season and again this week, we knew it would be a big focus.

"It wasn't just that one scrum penalty, I think we won a couple in the first half that Damian [McKenzie] managed to put over and ended up being really important.

"We didn't have too much field position in that first half, so to keep the scoreboard ticking over and using our scrum as a weapon was a massive part of getting the job done tonight."

In fact, the Chiefs were almost immediately on the backfoot, when Crusaders prop Tamaiti Williams opened the scoring with a fourth-minute try, diving over from close range.

McKenzie reduced the deficit almost immediately with a penalty from the kickoff, then another from a midfield scrum. He added two more before halftime to give the Chiefs a 12-7 lead, despite not really challenging the tryline.

By contrast, the Crusaders could easily have had two more tries. Winger Dallas McLeod had one disallowed, after replays showed a knockon in the build-up, while captain Scott Barrett was also denied for the same reason.

The Chiefs finally had their first try soon after the second-half restart, when McKenzie scythed through the defence and found Stevenson scooping down the left touchline. When confronted by the final defender, he passed infield for lock Brodie Retallick to score.

Momentum switched dramatically, when a Crusaders maul was pulled down short of the tryline, referee Angus Gardner awarded a penalty try and - with a little help from his video official - yellow-carded Chiefs No.8 Luke Jacobson as the prime offender.

In Jacobson's absence, the southerners edged ahead with a try to fullback Fergus Burke, before McKenzie and counterpart Richie Mo'unga swapped penalties for the lead.

Stevenson struck in almost identical circumstances to the Retallick try, but didn't need the support this time, as he powered over in the corner. Thompson's try sealed the deal for the runaway competition leaders.

After toppling the champions in their season-opener, the Chiefs have confirmed their clear favouritism for the title. The result sees them extend their lead atop the competition ladder to eight points over ACT Brumbies, who suffered their second loss of the season to third-placed Hurricanes on Friday.

The Hamilton side visit the hapless Highlanders next Friday, as the southerners try to end a three-game losing streak. The Crusaders host Western Force on Saturday.

Chiefs 34 (Retallick, Thompson & Stevenson tries; McKenzie 5 penalties & 2 conversions) Crusaders 24 (Williams & Burke tries, penalty try; Mo'unga 2 conversions & penalty)