Crusaders beat Chiefs, Brumbies top Sunwolves in Super Rugby
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — The Christchurch-based Crusaders made a scratchy start to the defense of their Super Rugby title on Saturday, weathering two yellow cards and relying on a disputed penalty try and two late intercepts to beat the Hamilton-based Chiefs 45-23.
The Chiefs led 20-19, against the run of play, after 56 minutes before the Crusaders began a concerted rally with a try to captain Sam Whitelock.
In other matches Saturday, the ACT Brumbies rallied from 19-8 down in the first half to beat the Japan-based Sunwolves 32-25 in Tokyo. And the New South Wales Waratahs scored a try in the final seconds to beat South Africa’s Stormers 34-27.
A penalty try and yellow card awarded against the Chiefs in the 68th minute swung the match heavily in the Crusaders’ favor. Replacement backrower Lachlan Boshier was deemed by referee Ben O’Keefe to have made a high tackle in preventing a try by Crusaders center Ryan Crotty.
The Crusaders lost flyhalf Richie Mo’unga, for a professional foul, and prop Michael Alaalatoa, for a high tackle, to yellow cards in the first half.
In an eventful contest between aspiring All Blacks flyhalves Mo’unga for the Crusaders and Damian McKenzie for the Chiefs, Mo’unga scored an early try after an opening try by Matt Todd to give the Crusaders a 12-0 lead. The Crusaders scored again through backrower Jordan Taufua while Mo’unga was in the sin-bin to take a commanding 19-3 advantage.
The Chiefs hit back with tries to captain Sam Cane and winger Solomon Aliamano in the last seven minutes of the first half, the second try while Alaalatoa was in the bin for his tackle on McKenzie, to cut the lead to 19-17 at the break.
They seized the lead, briefly, with a penalty to McKenzie but Whitelock’s try set in motion the Crusaders’ revival.
“The boys are blowing pretty hard,” Whitelock said. “It’s pretty tough when you go down to 14 men for a period. The best thing is the boys really stuck together. We figured out what we had to do and that resolve really got us through in the end.”
The Brumbies, Australian conference winners last season and playing under new head coach Dan McKellar, led with an early penalty to flyhalf Christian Lealiifano, who played all 80 minutes as he embarked on his first Super Rugby season since he was diagnosed in remission from leukemia.
Two tries to Hosea Saumaki and a try to Timothy Lafaele, answered by a try for the Brumbies by Lachlan McCaffrey, lifted the Sunwolves to a 19-8 lead after 29 minutes. Lealiifano added the conversion to Kyle Godwin’s 35th-minute try to cut the Sunwolves’ lead to 19-15 at halftime.
The Brumbies hit the front with a try to Tevita Kuridrani immediately after halftime and pulled ahead with a 53rd-minute try to Josh Mann-Rea.
The Sunwolves closed to five points at 27-22 before the Brumbies clinched their win with a try to fullback Tom Banks.
“It was quite tough there for most of the game, but we stuck to what we knew and got the result in the end,” Brumbies captain Sam Carter said.
Ned Hanigan’s late try gave the Waratahs their win over the Stormers. The Waratahs lost the lead five times in the match but clinched victory following a lineout steal from an overthrow after the final siren.
A strong run from reserve back-rower Jed Holloway and passes from five-eighth Bernard Foley and replacement prop and debutant Harry Johnson-Holmes set up Hanigan, who crashed through two defenders to score in the corner.