Chiefs 24-31 Crusaders: Super Rugby leaders win derby thriller
Last Updated: 19/05/17 4:57pm
The Crusaders maintained their unbeaten run with a 31-24 win over the Chiefs in Suva on Friday, extending their lead at the top of the Super Rugby table.
The Crusaders only scored three tries to four against their closest New Zealand rivals, but fly-half Richie Mo'unga's two conversions and four penalties gave them the win.
The result boosts the Crusaders' chances of finishing top of the ladder and claiming the reward of home-ground advantage in the play-offs.
Captain Sam Whitelock said it was pleasing to see his backline take control after the forwards delivered victory against the Wellington Hurricanes last week.
"The whole year we've had the balance right between forwards and backs," Whitelock said.
"Either unit can step up when they need to, that's awesome as a captain."
There was a concern for All Blacks selectors when Crusaders centre Ryan Crotty left the field with possible concussion, adding to a growing injury list ahead of the British and Irish Lions series - which you can see live on Sky Sports.
But they could take heart from the fact that fly-half Aaron Cruden was in sparkling form, despite being on the losing side.
The fixture was nominally a Chiefs home game but they moved it to Fiji to recognise the contribution Pacific Islanders make to New Zealand rugby.
The meeting between New Zealand's top-performing sides lived up to expectations, with the lead changing four times before the Crusaders took control in the second half.
The Chiefs looked set for an upset win with a 17-13 lead at the break but conceded too many penalties as the Crusaders remained disciplined.
Cruden set up the opening try, accelerating into space then sending a floating pass to set up Tim Nanai-Williams on the wing.
The No 10 then followed up with a kick from deep within his own half that bounced perfectly for the onrushing James Lowe.
The Crusaders hit back with a Heiden Bedwell-Curtis try, but the Chiefs scored another when Kane Hames managed to ground the ball through a tangle of bodies.
The Crusaders began the second half with a magnificent David Havili try after Mo'unga intercepted a Cruden kick and sparked an attack that left the Chiefs defenders grasping at air.
Ben Funnell consolidated the lead off the back of a jinking Mo'unga run, only for Cruden to claw one back for the Chiefs after dodging past three defenders.
The Chiefs had a late chance at a lineout close to their opponents' line, but squandered it by knocking on with time up on the clock.