Damian McKenzie made a rare outing at flyhalf count as he kicked 16 points to help the Chiefs come from behind to beat the Crusaders 26-25 in Hamilton on Saturday.
D-Mac stars at 10: The Chiefs backed Damian McKenzie to start at flyhalf for the first time this season, with the All Black having previously been used at fullback. It turned out to be an inspired decision, as McKenzie turned in a fantastic performance, which included kicking four penalties and two conversions, one of them from the touchline.
Gameflow: The Crusaders got off to a fast start through a try from wing Leicester Fainga’anuku inside the first five minutes. The Chiefs then worked their way back into the contest, as McKenzie kicked three penalties to put them ahead. However, a Will Jordan try combined with a penalty from Richie Mo’unga gave the Crusaders a handy 17-9 leading into the break.
The game was turned on its head in the second half as it was the Chiefs who largely dominated territory and possession, putting the Crusaders on the defensive. Lachlan Boshier, who did his All Blacks’ ambitions no harm in this match, muscled his way over to ensure that the Chiefs capitalised.
The lead changed hands several times as Crusaders hooker Codie Taylor scored from the back of a driving maul, before Chiefs wing Jonah Lowe produced an outstanding finish the corner. Mo’unga gave his side a one-point lead with a penalty, but it was McKenzie who would have the final say, holding his nerve to slot the winning goal with two minutes to go.
Crusaders under pressure: Having looked nailed on to finish first once again, the Crusaders could suddenly find their position under threat in the final two matches of the season. The result has moved the Chiefs into second place and they trail the Crusaders by seven points with two matches to go. The Crusaders will next face the Blues, before they have a bye in the 10th and final round of the competition. That has suddenly become a defining match for the defending champions, with the chasing pack quickly closing in.