After just 20 minutes the Chiefs were down by 20 points and looked down and out before an incredible late half assault closed the halftime gap to 19-20. The Chiefs continued to throw caution to the wind in the second half and sealed the match in the 78th minute when replacement midfielder Tumua Manu pounced on a short kick off from the Crusaders to send the Suva crowd into raptures.
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The Chiefs and Crusaders have had a lively rivalry in Fiji with one win each prior to this encounter, but this is a match that will be remembered for a long time in the Fijian capital.
Last week the Chiefs showed great determination to make 242 tackles to keep their season alive against the Reds. Against the Crusaders though more than just stoic defence is required and the Chiefs showed boundless enterprise to score six tries in a breathless game.
The Crusaders struck first at ANZ Stadium in the 12th minute through a Ryan Crotty-Scott Barrett double-act. Crotty sparked it with a mid-field intercept before Barrett showed pace more accustomed to his two brothers to finish it from 40 metres out. The drums have been beating for Barrett to be considered as a blindside flanker for the All Blacks this season and it was the type of play that will make national selectors sit up and take notice.
Two further tries, one a close range effort from Mitchell Drummond and the other a fan favourite try out wide from Sevu Reece, stretched the Crusaders out to a 0-20 lead after just 20 minutes.
Even the most ardent Chiefs fan would have considered switching the channel at this point but the Chiefs had other ideas.
In a scarcely believable nine minute period, the Chiefs cut the Crusaders defence to shreds to score three tries to close the gap to 19-20.
Anton Lienert-Brown made the initial break from the kick off before Pita Gus Sowakula, Brad Weber, Alex Nankivell and Atu Moli all combined to put Jesse Parete over.
The Crusaders are the kings of scoring either side of the half and underscored that point with a try in the 42nd minute to Braydon Ennor to take the lead to 19-27.
It could have been a hammer blow for the Chiefs, but they laid on an offloading masterclass in the 47th minute to close the gap to one point through a Brad Weber try.
The Chiefs confidence continued to grow in confidence through the half and a brilliant solo try to Shaun Stevenson in the 66th minute took the lead for the first time.
Up by just six points, it looked like the Chiefs were about to let the game slip as the Crusaders pressed on the line in the 75th minute. Sam Cane showed his class with a brave turnover to stymie the Crusaders final chance on the line before Tumua Manu put the game out of reach.
The win has taken the Chiefs from fifth in the NZ conference to third and means they now face a huge final round match against the Rebels with a potential playoff spot on the line.
Chiefs 40 (Solomon Alaimalo, Samison Taukei’aho, Jesse Parete, Brad Weber, Shaun Stevenson, Tumua Manu tries, Jack Debreczeni 5 con) Crusaders 27 (Scott Barrett, Mitchell Drummond, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor tries, Richie Mo’unga 2 con, pen)
Who saw this coming?#CHIvCRU pic.twitter.com/Qjfy6jT3lh— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) June 1, 2019