They didn't score a try but the Crusaders snatched a rare Super Rugby away victory over the Chiefs in Hamilton last night on the back of Colin Slade's boot.
In front of 17,097 at Waikato Stadium Slade kicked his sixth penalty goal in the 71st minute to seal an 18-17 victory.
That closed the Crusaders within three points of the New Zealand Conference-leading Chiefs on the points table.
With the final hooter having sounded the Chiefs had one last shot at trying to wrest back the lead, but they had to do it from inside their own 22.
Standout fullback Tom Marshall led the breakout and patienceruled as they worked their way up to halfway before a ruck penaltygave Anscombe a 51 metre shot at winning the game.
But the ball dropped just under the crossbar and the Crusaders celebrated their first victory in Hamilton since July 2012.
The first half had it all and while the Crusaders gained a slight edge in a mistake-ridden opening quarter, the Chiefs ground their way back into the match in the second 20 minutes as the rain started to fall to lead 17-9 at the break.
With both goal-kickers deadly from all angles and distances it was something of a penalty shootout for a while, Colin Slade banging overall three of his attempts to Gareth Anscombe's one in the first 15 minutes.
Both teams took turns at stringing together multiple phase attacks only to turn the ball over and find themselves back down the other end, but when big Crusaders lock laid out Chiefs No8 Liam Squire with a shoulder charge, referee Garratt Williamson ordered up a replay on the big screen and issued a yellow card to Bird in the 28th minute.
That was the break the home side were seeking, Anscombe kicking his second penalty goal and within nine minutes his third and fourth to put the Chiefs ahead 12-9 before the Crusaders second rower was able to get back from the sin-bin.But with both defences cancelling each other out in something of a stalemate for much of the half the second break for the Chiefs came inthe final minute before halftime.
As Williamson played another penalty advantage, having warned the visitors for persistent infringing in their own red zone, 21-year-oldhooker Rhys Marshall ran right to a big blindside off a ruck and a slick pass put his namesake, fullback Tom Marshall, outside Crusaders No8 Jordan Taufua.
The fullback then gassed it straight between halfback Willi Heinz and
fullback Israel Dagg to score, Anscombe just missing the wide-angled conversion attempt to end the half.
The first 40 minutes were marred by three players leaving the fieldfor concussion tests - Squire, Crusaders skipper Kieran Read andChiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow.
Squire and Kerr-Barlow returnedbut were replaced at halftime, while Read never returned.
The Chiefs came out breathing fire and brimstone after the break and put together 25 phases to hammer the Crusaders' line, but again thedefence held and eventually forced an error.
Instead it was Slade who provided the half's first points with hisfourth penalty goal in the 50th minute but a mad-headed moment by the Chiefs, rushing when they didn't have to was not punished when Slade hit an upright with his fifth kick at goal and the home team broke out.
Fourteen minutes later in the 66th minute he struck the woodwork again, but the Chiefs' indiscipline kept feeding him chances and two more Slade penalty goals put the Crusaders in front 18-17 with nine minutes left to play.
And then the last-minute drama played out with Anscombe's forlornlong-range attempt at goal.
Crusaders 18 (Colin Slade 6 pens) Chiefs 17 (Tom Marshalltry; Gareth Anscombe 4 penalty goals). HT: 9-17.
- Fairfax Media
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