Crusaders hold off spirited Sunwolves, Chiefs outgun Reds
The Crusaders overcame a spirited Sunwolves and stormy weather as the Chiefs secured a vital bonus point deep in stoppage time against the Reds in Super Rugby on Saturday.
The Crusaders, with their bonus point in a 33-11 victory sealed by three late tries, moved to the top of the New Zealand conference while the Hurricanes have a bye this weekend.
It was a hard-fought win as the bottom-placed Sunwolves, who conceded 50 points to the Crusaders a year ago, played above themselves and held the defending champions to 14-11 until 15 minutes into the second half.
But once Ryan Crotty scored his second try to stretch the lead to 21-11, the Crusaders moved up a gear and were in charge for the final quarter.
There were six tries scored, five to the Crusaders, in a match that for much of the time was an arm wrestle as periods of thunder, lightning, torrential rain and occasional hail restricted efforts to produce a free-flowing game.
"It made it slippery, especially when the hail came down, and it probably took us too long to adjust," captain Matt Todd said of the unconvincing Crusaders performance.
"They made us work for every point we got.
"We had to defend our line at times, and then we built some phases to get some points late which was pleasing."
The Chiefs led the Reds 31-0 just after half-time but two Samu Kerevi tries meant they needed a Samisoni Taukei'aho try in the fifth minute of stoppage time to claim a 36-12 win and the bonus point.
It was the 35th straight win by New Zealand teams over Australian opposition and leaves the Reds in fourth spot in the Australian conference.
The Chiefs lost fly-half dynamo Damian McKenzie with a head knock midway through the first half but were always in command of the Brisbane game, scoring five tries to two.
"We were really stoked to get that bonus point right there at the end but it was very tough.
"It would have been nice to kick on after that first 25 minutes," Chiefs skipper Sam Kane said.
Veteran open-side flanker George Smith made his first appearance of the season for the Reds as a substitute after December back surgery.
The result completed a dismal 24 hours for Australian rugby after the Waratahs were held scoreless for the first time in a 29-0 loss to South Africa's leaders the Lions in Sydney on Friday.