Chiefs vs Crusaders – Super Rugby – 8 February 2020

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The Chiefs and Crusaders always dish up some of the best rugby you will see in the Super Rugby every year. When it gets to a derby match it just takes a step up that leaves any lover of the game with a smile on their faces.

With two of the best Super Rugby teams coached by the two best coaches in Super Rugby, it was never going to be an average game. As much as it was Chiefs against Crusaders, it was also definitely Warren Gatland against Scott Robertson.

The Chiefs were deserved winners and the game was a spectacular display of hard rugby. I honestly don’t know how other teams are going to compete against them with any realistic chance this season.

I am a bit biased to the Chiefs side and have loved their play over the past few years, but the class of the Crusaders is undeniable. This could be seen again in how they took control of the game in the first quarter and cruised to a 12-3 lead. The Chiefs try helped to just balance it out a bit and at 12-8 we knew that we were going to be in for another mouthwatering display of Super Rugby.

The Chiefs were however not taking any chances fielding their strongest possible. This after almost running into problems the previous week for not doing so.

Towards the back end of the first half, there was some courageous defense from the Waikato team keeping out a slick Crusaders attack. As a result of all the pressure, the Crusaders made a few small mistakes not due to lack of talent, but through resilient defense.

Although people rarely give teams like the Bulls credit for this part of the game, the old adage goes “take the points when they are on offer”. The Crusaders had three easy penalty opportunities in the last 10 minutes of the first half but decided not to take one of them.

The Chiefs made them pay shortly after the half time break to score next to the posts. This was off the kickoff and 11 phases. The Crusaders defense was found wanting, but not so much due to a lack of skill from their side, but rather the attacking prowess of the Chiefs.

One of the best battles in the game was however at the breakdown. Over the past few years, the Crusaders have been the best in the business when it comes to working for 80 minutes at ruck time. The Chiefs were up to the challenge in every way. The speed to the ruck by both teams ended being an amazing arm wrestle throughout. Just one more facet of the game that the New Zeelanders treat with the utmost respect and is so extremely crucial to success in a game (pay attention Australian and South African teams!).

Sense prevailed for the Crusaders early in the 2nd half and when they were presented with their 4th kickable penalty either side of half time, they actually took the points on offer.

Near flawless Chiefs

They played their stronger team and were able to flex their considerable rugby muscle when needed. For a large part of the first half, they had to fight on defense and did so admirably. A lot of huge work was done off the ball to cover space make crucial tackles.

After having to defend their own try-line relentlessly for the last 10 minutes of the first half, they started the 2nd half in style. The took the ball through 11 phases after fielding the kickoff until their scrumhalf Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi went over.

Patience and skill were on display for everyone to see and after defending like trojans they were able to shift gears and go on multiple phases of attack with ease.

The crucial turnover penalties forced by Lachlan Boshier towards the end of the game helped to get the Chiefs into an unassailable position.

Crusaders at their best for 95% of the game, but…

Quickly out the gate, as they are… well in recent years. In years gone by the first few games were always an opportunity to take advantage of a slightly less organized Crusaders outfit. Those years are however long gone.

Their confidence in their own abilities resulted in them totally ignoring the points on offer at the end of the first half. The Chiefs defense ensured that they got absolutely nothing from it.

Their championship-winning defense was however on display again for everyone to see throughout the game. This couldn’t be more evident than the 22 phases of attack that the Chiefs put in around the 50th minute. The Crusaders just kept working extremely hard at ruck time and proved why they have been the top defensive team over the past 2 years.

Outstanding players

Chiefs: Samisoni Taukeiaho (2), Atunaisa Moli(3), Lachlan Boshier (6), Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (9), Aaron Cruden (10), Solomon Alaimalo (11), Anton Lienert-Brown (12), Sean Wainui (14), Damian McKenzie (15), Brad Weber (21)

Crusaders: Codie Taylor (2), Mitch Drummond (9), David Havili (10), Jack Goodhue(12), Sevu Reece (14)

ThysRugby player of the game: Lachlan Boshier – non-stop work at the point of contact winning a couple of crucial penalties at the rucks

Best plays of the game

  • The defensive effort of the Chiefs for 5 minutes on their own line from the 30 minute mark
  • The try by the Chiefs just after half time, going over 60 meters up the field and working through 11 phases
  • The Chiefs going 22 phases on the attack, but the Crusaders holding firm just outside their 22 and forcing a penalty at ruck time
  • Brad Weber creating something out of nothing on the blindside to put in Sean Wainui
  • Lachlan Boshier’s two penalties earned at the ruck in short succession
  • Chiefs defensive effort on their own line to turn over the ball after the Crusaders had a very attacking lineout on the 5m
  • Lachlan Boshier winning another penalty at the ruck with 2 minutes to go putting it out of reach for the Crusaders

Final verdict

Chiefs: With almost all of the 1st choice players back in the team they were pure class. There weren’t really any flaws in their game and they won the game with their electric attack on the back of their amazing defensive efforts.

Crusaders: The Crusaders were impressive and even though the Chiefs outmuscled them on the day, there is no doubting their pedigree. Not much to worry about except having to learn to take points when it is on offer.