Crusaders stunned by Chiefs' second-half blitz in Christchurch

Replacement halfback Cortez Ratima scores for the Chiefs against the Crusaders.

The Chiefs have announced themselves as a huge Super Rugby Pacific threat by scoring 24 second-half points to thrash the Crusaders 31-10 in Christchurch tonight.

Beating Scott Robertson’s men at home is one of the most difficult things to do in the competition and yet the Chiefs, after a difficult first half in which they lost co-captain Sam Cane to a yellow card for what was adjudged as a cynical ruck offence, appeared to do it easily.

They went to the break 7-10 down after conceding an early try to David Havili but found some momentum late in the half via a try for Brodie Retallick and then simply went about their work with accuracy and continuity, denying the defending champions a single point in the second stanza.

It was a remarkable performance in the slippery conditions, with Damian McKenzie a standout at first-five, and then fullback once the also excellent Josh Ioane entered off the bench in the second half. Halfback Brad Weber and No.15 Shaun Stevenson were also too hot to handle for the home side.

They played with an intensity, accuracy and physicality that the Crusaders couldn't match and it must register as one of their most comprehensive performances under coach Clayton McMillan.

For the Crusaders, hoping to send off coach Robertson and first-five Mo’unga on a high note this year, there was little to cheer about.

They appeared defensively strong in the first half but were too easy to break down as the game wore on.

Their kicking game was poor and their attack too lateral. Mo’unga made three poor mistakes with the boot – twice missing the sideline with penalty clearances and kicking one re-start out on the full.

With their discipline also breaking down in the second 40 minutes, the upshot is it will probably register as one of the worst halves they have played during Robertson's reign.

They weren’t helped by the second-half sinbinning of loose forward Ethan Blackadder, who was otherwise good on his return from a shoulder injury.

Blackadder, yellow carded for a high tackle in the second half, had the dubious honour of being the first to have it reviewed for a possible red while he was on the sideline – a new initiative this year designed to speed the game up. The sanction remained a yellow.

David Havili stretches out to score for the Crusaders against the Chiefs at Orangetheory Stadium.

The Chiefs, inspired by their continued attacking success, kept finding holes in the normally watertight home defence, Cane going over after an excellent 50-22 kick from McKenzie, Alex Nankivell scoring from a clever flick from Ioane, and replacement halfback Cortez Ratima, who showed pace and power to push off big wing Leicester Fainga’anuku.

One of the only success stories for the Crusaders was the performance of new loosie Christian Lio-Willie, a standout after replacing the injured No.8 Cullen Grace after nine minutes.

This was a bonus point victory to savour for the Chiefs, who saw their dreams of making the finals last season crushed at this venue by the Crusaders in a semifinal.

The Crusaders, without 173-game veteran Sam Whitelock due to a head knock, have won six titles in a row since Robertson took over six years ago but they were comprehensively outplayed tonight.

Led by Retallick and McKenzie, auditioning to be Mo’unga’s replacement as All Blacks No.10, the Chiefs will be a tough proposition for any team this year, no matter the venue.

The only sour note for them was the departure of Anton Lienert-Brown in the second half due to an ankle injury.

Chiefs 31 (Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane, Nankivell, Cortez Ratima tries; Damian McKenzie 4 cons, pen)

Crusaders 10 (David Havili try; Richie Mo’unga dropped goal, con)

Halftime: Crusaders 10-7


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