Three tries six minutes either side of halftime destroyed the Chiefs' hopes of wrapping up Super Rugby's New Zealand Conference in Christchurch tonight.
The Crusaders' crushing 43-15 victory at AMI Stadium kept their chances of winning the conference alive and did considerable damage to the Chiefs' chances of finishing as top overall seed for home advantage in the playoffs.
Scoring five tries to two and dominating much of the play, the Crusaders showed they are going to be dangerous come playoffs time but it was that decisive period just before the break and just after that enabled the home team to break the game open.
The Chiefs, who were without co-captain and All Blacks blindside flanker Liam Messam after he failed to recover from a lower back strain suffered in the gym last Monday, replaced by Ross Filipo, were never in the match.
The Crusaders beat them conclusively in the collision area and that advantage influenced many other areas of the game, including the Chiefs' error rates.
They were on the back foot from the start, getting into dangerous territory when they conceded four breakdown penalties in the first quarter, Dan Carter raising the flags with all of them.
Aaron Cruden got one back but the Chiefs were making uncharacteristic errors under pressure at the breakdown.
It took till midway through the first half for the visitors to get any attacking ball and some skilful work from Cruden with a chargedown of Israel Dagg's clearing kick and a clever run to within a metre of the line eventually resulted in a try to Chiefs winger Asaeli Tikoirotuma in the left corner.
With referee Jonathon White playing advantage for the Crusaders infringing at the ruck, Cruden put up a bomb to the left corner and when the ball spilled loose from the aerial contest between Filipo and Carter it was Tikoirotuma who pounced on it in the in-goal area.
Cruden hit the post with his conversion attempt but the Chiefs were back in the contest and starting to clean out the breakdowns better.
Six minutes from the end of the half Crusaders wing Zac Guildford was lucky to get away with a deliberate knock-on to ruin a Chiefs attack and when Matt Todd was put into a hole the home side quickly got back on attack.
The Crusaders then forced a 5m scrum when Robbie Robinson was unable to clear from a difficult spot between his own posts and skipper and No8 Kieran Read scored with time up, the try given after numerous TMO replays.
Carter's conversion meant the home team went to the break leading 19-8 and when the Chiefs turned over their own lineout throw just a minute into the second half Dagg scorched into the backline to score with Carter's conversion making him the first player in Super Rugby to 1500 points.
Four minutes later Dagg cut the Chiefs' defence to ribbons down the left flank and put Read in for his second try and the visitors were suddenly staring at a 31-8 deficit.
The Chiefs kept making errors and putting themselves under pressure in their own red zone, leaving them little hope of getting back in the contest.
It seemed only a matter of time before they cracked again and the Crusaders scored their bonus-point try. It was centre Ryan Crotty who did just that in the 56th minute with Dagg and Tom Marshall putting him into the right corner for a 36-8 lead.
The Chiefs threw on the replacements and tried desperately to run the ball to try and get a bonus point and while the mistakes kept coming they finally worked their way into the left corner and centre Charlie Ngatai scored.
But appropriately the home side had the final say when replacement back Tyler Bleyendaal snatched an intercept after the hooter and Carter converted.
Crusaders 43 (Kieran Read 2, Israel Dagg, Ryan Crotty, Tyler Bleyendaal tries; Dan Carter 3 conversions, 4 penalty goals) Chiefs 15 (Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Charlie Ngatai tries; Andrew Horrell conversion; Aaron Cruden penalty goal). Halftime 19-8
- Fairfax Media
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