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Super Rugby: Crusaders snatch 18-17 victory over the Chiefs
Colin Slade kicked all the points as the Crusaders exacted revenge on rivals the Chiefs with an 18-17 victory in an enthralling, yet brutal Super Rugby battle at the Waikato Stadium.
Todd Blackadder's men gained vengeance for an 18-10 reverse in their season curtain-raiser by edging a bruising affair which saw no less than three concussion tests and a yellow card, but just the one try.
The visitors made a strong start via the boot of Slade, but their momentum was thwarted by a Dominic Bird yellow card, which handed the advantage to the Chiefs.
Gareth Anscombe kicked the Chiefs into the lead before Tom Marshall raced home the only try of the night to give the hosts a 17-9 half-time lead.
The Crusaders persistently probed the Chiefs defence in the second period and Slade kicked them to victory with three second-half penalties as they gave their play-off hopes another shot in the arm.
Crusaders drew first blood as Slade, fresh from booting 22 points as Blackadder's side beat the Cheetahs 52-31 last weekend, slotted home two penalties to give the visitors an early lead in Hamilton.
When Brodie Retallick took exception to Wyatt Crockett's actions at the breakdown, the fracas that ensued exemplified the ferocity of the rivalry between the New Zealand conference sides that went toe-to-toe in last year's semi-final.
An infringement at the line out gifted Anscombe a first penalty of the evening and the Chiefs fly-half made no mistake from the kicking tee, only for Slade to restore the six-point advantage with a three-pointer of his own moments later.
The heat of the battle continued to rise as Dominic Bird was sin-binned for a no-arms tackle on Liam Squire and, while the Chiefs back row took a concussion test, Anscombe reduced their deficit to three.
Crusaders captain Kieran Read and Tawera Kerr-Barlow became the next concussion victims as the war of attrition raged on and the subsequent penalty allowed Anscombe to draw the Chiefs level.
Anscombe's unerring accuracy sent the Chiefs into the lead for the first time as momentum swung in favour of Rennie's men.
The 2013 champions nudged further ahead on the cusp of half time as a surging run from former Crusader Marshall pierced the visitors' defence, but the wet conditions finally caught up with Anscombe as his conversion fell short.
The Chiefs continued where they left off from the restart but the Crusaders stood firm to repel a 26-phase attack on their own line in a fine display of defensive might.
Crusaders hit back immediately as they raced down field to win a penalty, which Slade slotted home before squandering the opportunity to bring the visitors within two as his fifth attempt ricocheted off the upright.
Still, the Crusaders probed but could not forge a path through a resilient Chiefs defence and when Slade struck the woodwork for second time, it looked like their luck was out.
However, as the Chiefs struggled to contend with a Crusaders onslaught, Slade was offered a shot at redemption, which he seized to bring the visitors within two points.
Slade's sixth successful penalty of the night put the Crusaders back in the lead but the Chiefs riposte was ferocious.
The hosts battered away at the Crusaders defence and could have won the game in overtime when they were awarded a penalty just inside their own half, only for Anscombe's effort from the tee fell metres short.Rugby Union Live. Click here to bet.