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Super Rugby: Chiefs make Crusaders pay for missed penalties
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The Crusaders missed seven penalties as defending Super Rugby champions the Chiefs opened their 2014 season with an 18-10 win at AMI Stadium.
The home side put themselves in a strong position to gain revenge over the Chiefs for their semi-final defeat in 2013 but were made to pay the price for numerous mistakes from the kicking tee.
With Dan Carter currently on a sabbatical the kicking duties fell to Tyler Bleyendaal, who went 0 for 5 in the first half, and Tom Talyor, who fared slightly better but still missed two important attempts.
Tries from the Chiefs' Robbie Fruean and the Crusaders' Sam Whitelock ensured the contest was a close battle for the most part, but a late interception score from James Lowe wrapped up the win for the visitors.
Fruean grabbed the opening try in the 10th minutes as he received an offload from Asaeli Tikoirotuma before beating the defence to finish off a fine counter-attacking move which started inside the Chiefs' own 22.
Aaron Cruden missed the conversion but Bleyendaal did the same with two penalties soon afterwards to leave the score at 5-0 after 20 minutes of action.
Bleyendaal's nightmare start continued when he missed two more penalties as half-time approached and things got worse for the Crusaders when Dominic Bird was sent to the sin bin after his side's repeated infringements at the ruck.
Chiefs fly-half Cruden was having no such problems and was on target to make the lead 8-0, which it remained at half-time after Bleyendaal missed his fifth shot at goal.
The second half started with both teams down to 14 men with Ben Tameifuna joining Bird in bin, while Bleyendaal was put out of his misery and replaced by Taylor.
After the break the Chiefs should have scored a second try from a counter attack but Cruden spilled the ball in the act of diving for the line.
George Whitelock was sent to the bin and Cruden added his second penalty to extend the lead to 11-0, but the home side finally sparked into life when Sam Whitelock broke clear from the middle of a line-out and charged over the line for a converted try.
The kicking curse continued to plague the men in red, however, as Taylor had missed two more penalties by the hour mark to take the total of squandered points to 21.
Taylor finally slotted an easy penalty over to make it a one-point game with six minutes left to play but with the home side putting the pressure on in the closing stages, Lowe plucked Nafi Tuitavake's pass out of the air and raced away for a try in the corner, which Cruden converted to deny the Crusaders a losing bonus point.