Chiefs hold off Crusaders
Messam and Taumalolo both score to seal victory
By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter @SkysportsTC. Last Updated: 09/03/12 9:53am
Luke Romano is brought down by Sonny Bill Williams
The Chiefs held on to clinch a nail-biting 24-19 victory over the Crusaders at McLean Park in Napier on Friday.
The Waikato franchise silenced criticisms over the strength of their pack as they took the fight to the seven-time champions.
However a lack of discipline allowed the Crusaders to remain in touch.
Liam Messam and Arizona Taumalolo both drove over for tries for the Chiefs, with 14 points coming from the misfiring boot of Aaron Cruden.
The Crusaders, though, responded with 14 points from rising star Tyler Bleyendaal - while a second-half try from Robbie Fruean made it interesting.
The Chiefs got off to the ideal start as Cruden slotted over a regulation penalty in just the second minute, with Bleyendaal missing a long-range effort to level matters.
Bleyendaal was successful with his second effort on 10 minutes - however the Chiefs should have pulled clear but Cruden failed with two relatively straight-forward shots at goal.
Cruden finally rewarded the Chiefs for their dominance during the opening period with a penalty, however the visitors deserved much more from all their efforts.
The Chiefs, though, finally crossed the whitewash when Messam powered over - with the TMO needing to verify the grounding. Cruden converted.
The Crusaders responded well and, after Andy Ellis had a try chalked off for offside, Bleyendaal cut the deficit with his second penalty of the game.
However, Cruden restored the 10-point cushion before the break with a penalty.
The second half saw the Crusaders come out all guns blazing - and they we rewarded with a try through Fruean, with the centre profiting after Kieran Read had barged through the Chiefs defence. Bleyendaal converted.
The Crusaders couldn't build on their onslaught and the Chiefs were able to reassert their dominance - with Taumalolo burrowing over from close range after a series of drives. Again the TMO was needed to spot the ball under the pile-up.
The boot of Bleyendaal, though, kept the home side in touch - with the fly-half punishing the indiscipline with two efforts to cut the lead to 21-19.
Cruden settled the Chiefs' nerves with a late penalty - and despite Read having half a chance to break their hearts, the visitors held on.