Dy­namic McKenzie de­nies Cru­saders, Brumbies kick into gear

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

DAMIAN MCKENZIE slot­ted home a penalty as time ex­pired to deny the Cru­saders a bonus point as the Chiefs se­cured a 23-13 vic­tory to go top of the stand­ings in Su­per Rugby, which re­turned after the in­ter­na­tional break yes­ter­day.

In a game marked by a suc­ces­sion of han­dling er­rors at a rain-soaked ANZ Sta­dium in the Fi­jian cap­i­tal of Suva, the Chiefs emerged vic­to­ri­ous in a bat­tle of the top two teams in the New Zealand con­fer­ence to en­hance their ti­tle cre­den­tials.

The vic­tory moves the Chiefs top of the over­all stand­ings on 46 points, one ahead of Cru­saders, who drop down into the wild card po­si­tions but are still hand­ily placed to se­cure a play­off berth.

“We’ve been to­gether since Novem­ber and a lot of hard work comes up to a cou­ple of key games at this part of the sea­son,” Chiefs cap­tain Sam Cane said pitch­side. “So to come here and get this re­sult, we’re pretty pleased.”

After a slow start, the Cru­saders fi­nally made their early dom­i­nance tell when an in­fringe­ment in a ruck was pe­nalised in front of the posts and Richie Mo’unga slot­ted home to make it 3- 0 lead after 18 min­utes.

The Chiefs came storm­ing back just four min­utes later when a slick pass­ing move from a scrum in mid­field ended with a try, when Seta Ta­mani­valu’s clever chip through the Cru­saders de­fence was touched down in the cor­ner by James Lowe. McKenzie, curled in a dif­fi­cult con­ver­sion and then added three more points with an­other penalty, be­fore the dy­namic full­back was in­stru­men­tal in help­ing the Chiefs surge into a 17-3 lead after 33 min­utes. Pick­ing up the ball on his own 10-me­tre line, McKenzie stepped through three tack­lers be­fore of­fload­ing to Brad We­ber, who sprinted clear of the last two de­fend­ers to score the Chiefs’ sec­ond try of the half. McKenzie added the ex­tras but the Cru­saders had the fi­nal say be­fore the break when Jone Macilai rounded off a sweep­ing move in the 42nd minute to score in the cor­ner and Mo’unga re­duced the ar­rears to 17-10 with a con­ver­sion from the cor­ner.

The start of the sec­ond half was lit­tered with a suc­ces­sion of han­dling er­rors, un­til the Chiefs’ for­wards punched holes in the de­fence with a se­ries of pow­er­ful runs be­fore the Cru­saders were pe­nalised for off­side. McKenzie kicked over from in front to make it 20-10 after 57 min­utes.

The match drifted as reg­u­lar re­place­ments broke up play and the teams strug­gled in the hu­mid con­di­tions un­til Mo’unga kicked his sec­ond penalty on 74 min­utes and McKenzie com­pleted the scor­ing after the Cru­saders were pe­nalised for not re­leas­ing.

“I don’t think we adapted to the con­di­tions as well as we could have tonight and the Chiefs are such a dan­ger­ous side when you turn the ball over,” Cru­saders skip­per Kieran Read said.

● The Brumbies over­came a slow start to main­tain their push for top spot in Su­per Rugby’s Aus­tralian con­fer­ence with a 43-24 bonus-point vic­tory over the Reds in Can­berra.

The Brumbies trailed 10-0 after 16 min­utes but Wal­laby skip­per Stephen Moore scored two tries to lead the home side’s re­cov­ery with Ben Alexan­der, Chris­tian Leali­ifano, To­mas Cubelli and Lausii Tali­auli also touch­ing down.

An­drew Ready, Dun­can Paia’Aua and Taniela Tupou re­sponded for the Reds but the Brumbies took a max­i­mum haul to move to 39 points after 13 matches, five clear of the Waratahs, who will hope to beat the Sun­wolves in Tokyo to­day. – Reuters

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