Super Rugby: Chiefs overcome ‘scratchy first half’ to beat Crusaders

Chiefs try-scorer Etene Nanai-Seturo celebrates his try against the Crusaders. Picture: @SuperRugby via X

Chiefs try-scorer Etene Nanai-Seturo celebrates his try against the Crusaders. Picture: @SuperRugby via X

Published Feb 23, 2024


Replacement fly-half Josh Ioane landed two late penalties to give the Chiefs a 33-29 home victory over defending champions the Crusaders to start the Super Rugby season Friday.

The Chiefs held off a second-half charge by the Crusaders, who scored two unanswered tries by Chay Fihaki and another by captain Scott Barrett to fight back from 27-10 down at half-time to lead before Ioane struck.

"It's good to start the season with a win. It's always a hard run against the Crusaders," said Chiefs try-scorer Etene Nanai-Seturo.

A new-look Crusaders, who are bidding for an eighth straight Super Rugby title, lost the season opener against the Chiefs for the second year running.

It ensured a disappointing start for new Crusaders head coach Rob Penney, who replaced Scott Robertson after he left to take charge of the All Blacks.

"It was a magnificent comeback, which I'm so proud of," said Penney.

"We were really scratchy in the first half, the Chiefs played well and didn’t let us in.

"To get back on track in the second half was awesome. The guys will be better for the experience."

The Chiefs dominated the first half by scoring tries through flanker Kaylum Boshier, scrum-half Xavier Roe and winger Nanai-Seturo, to a single Sevu Reece five-pointer for the Crusaders.

But it was a different story after the break as great hands from fly-half Rivez Reihana, who later went off injured, saw Fihaki cross before Crusaders skipper Barrett stretched out to touch down and make it 27-22.

Fihaki, in for All Blacks star Will Jordan -- who will miss the Super Rugby season through injury -- then burst through a huge hole and scorched over to level the scores with 10 minutes left.

The conversion put the Crusaders ahead before Ioane, a second-half replacement for Chiefs playmaker Damian McKenzie, held his nerve to fire over two penalties and decisively wrestle back the lead.

Both sides lost key players early in both halves. The Crusaders' All Blacks prop Tamaiti Williams went down clutching his leg on 10 minutes while McKenzie limped off early in the second half.


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