Chiefs stay unbeaten in Super Rugby; Blues, Rebels also win

HAMILTON, New Zealand (AP) — Flyhalf Damian McKenzie improved his chances for a place in New Zealand’s World Cup squad by leading the Hamilton-based Chiefs to a 34-24 win over the defending champion Crusaders on Saturday in Super Rugby Pacific.

McKenzie kicked five penalties among 19 points for the Chiefs, who extended their winning start to the season to nine matches and beat the Crusaders for the second time this season.

McKenzie kicked three penalties against the run of play to give the Chiefs a 9-7 lead at halftime and the Crusaders had come back to lead 24-22 when McKenzie engineered a try for fullback Shaun Stevenson that put the Chiefs ahead for the final time.

The Chiefs led 27-24 with two minutes remaining when they won a vital penalty from a scrum fed by the Crusaders near the Crusaders’ goal line. For a quick tap, they created their third and final try which cemented their 10-point margin.

“The Crusaders have one of the better scrums in the competition so credit to the boys up front, they’ve been putting in a lot of work this season,” Chiefs captain Sam Cane said. “It wasn’t just that one scrum penalty, we had a couple in the first half.

“Considering we didn’t have too much possession in that first half, to keep the scoreboard ticking over was a massive part of us getting the job done tonight.”

Earlier, the Auckland-based Blues took 25 minutes to get on the scoreboard and went on to build a comfortable but not impressive 30-14 win over the Fijian Drua in Lautoka, Fiji.

The Blues’ third win in a row lifted them into fourth place, two points ahead of the Crusaders who now have a 6-3 record.

The Chiefs’ 9-0 record is their best ever and hasn’t been achieved since the Crusaders last managed the same winning streak.

The Crusaders had surpluses of territory and possession in the first half but had only a single try to show for it, to prop Tamaiti Williams after only five minutes. The Chiefs managed to get out of their half on a few occasions and each time McKenzie kicked a penalty to eventually earn their halftime lead.

McKenzie helped set up a try for lock Brodie Retallick in the fifth minute of the second half which stretched the Chiefs’ lead to 19-7. He forced his hands through a tackle and off-loaded to Stevenson who passed inside for Retallick to score.

The Crusaders fought back with a penalty try from a collapsed maul and a contentious try to Fergus Burke who received an infield pass from a teammate who seemed in touch.

McKenzie kicked a penalty to give the Chiefs a 22-21 lead, then his opposite Richie Mo’unga landed a goal which put the Crusaders ahead 24-21.

McKenzie dashed through a hole in the Crusaders’ backline to create Stevenson’s try and cap a night on which he was clearly the dominant figure. Mo’unga had an off night with his kicking and was less effective than McKenzie in general play.

The Chiefs’ 10th-round win followed their 31-10 win over the Crusaders in the tournament’s opening round.

In Auckland, the Melbourne Rebels beat Moana Pasifika 43-33. In the final match of the 10th round at Brisbane, the Queensland Reds defeated the Western Force 31-17.


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