The Crusaders have shrugged off an early 10-point deficit and powered to a 39-17 win over the Chiefs at Christchurch Stadium, keeping their undefeated record in this year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Flyhalf Richie Mo’unga turned in a virtuoso performance for the defending champions, with a dazzling array of sidesteps and deceptive movement, to bring his side back into the game after Damian McKenzie scored a second-minute try for the visitors and then kicked a penalty.
But Mo’unga was also central to a controversial try at a crucial juncture of the game when he got a call in his favour from the television match official.
Mo’unga looked to have passed forward but the TMO did not call it, and from the resultant move the Crusaders were awarded a penalty try.
The Crusaders were 11-10 ahead at halftime after Leicester Fainga’anuku had shown extraordinary athleticism to begin the fightback with the team’s first try in the 15th minute.
He managed to hang in the air, keeping his feet from touching the ground as he dotted down in the corner despite a strong shoulder charge from McKenzie.
Soon after the start of the second half, the controversial penalty try increased the Crusaders’ lead to 18-10 after Chiefs scrumhalf Brad Weber held up Fainga’anuku’s efforts to score but was punished because he made the tackle from an offside position.
A no-look pass from Mo’unga, who also kicked over two penalties, then set up fullback Will Jordan for the home’s side third try after 53 minutes; a bonus-point fourth try was scored nine minutes later by No. 8 Whetukamokamo Douglas and the pressure continued with replacement Mitchell Dunshea going over to increase the score to 39-10.
But the Chiefs got a late consolation try with six minutes left as Etene Nanai-Seturo went over in the corner.