The Crusaders have run rampant over the Chiefs in Christchurch this evening, earning their third successive victory of the 2021 Super Rugby season with a 39-17 win.
It was an emotional day, with a moment of silence paid in rememberance of the 51 victims of the mosque terror attacks in the garden city that took place nearly two years ago.
The Chiefs got off to the start they wanted, with Damian McKenzie running into space on the right side of the field and driving his way through tackles to touch down in the second minute.
He backed up his magnificent run with an even better kick, striking the ball over from nigh on the touchline.
But he could not repeat it minutes later when he pulled a penalty left of the posts despite being right in front from 40m out.
The Crusaders struggled with their discipline early and it was not long before McKenzie had another penalty to give his team a double-digit lead, and he made no mistake this time.
But the Crusaders are four-time defending champions for a reason, and before too long they were producing magic of their own.
A flying Leicester Fainga’anuku touched down in what could be the finish of the season.
The left winger had nothing but open space ahead of him after receiving a long pass from David Havili at the edge of the 22m, but had to show all of his acrobatic skills to avoid a diving McKenzie and score a try with the majority of his body airborne and over the touchline.
Richie Mo’unga could not convert, but it looked as though the beast had been awoken within the Crusaders players.
It was the Crusaders who threatened again when Michael Alaalatoa drove his way towards the line off the back of a ruck, but was held up by a desperate Chiefs defence.
Their pressure was rewarded moments later as they won a penalty right in front to give Mo’unga an easy opportunity to bring his side within two points.
The All Blacks playmaker broke the line not long after but decided to step inside rather than deliver a pass wide to Sevu Reece for what looked like an easy try.
Despite the wasted opportunity, the momentum had well and truly swung with 10 minutes still remaining in the first half.
The Chiefs were then penalised after halfback Brad Weber was deemed offside when he stole the ball off the back of the Crusaders scrum, and Mo’unga duly kicked another through the posts to give the Super Rugby champions a one-point lead.
The Chiefs had a chance on the halftime buzzer to regain their advantage, but McKenzie pulled a long-range penalty wide.
After the break, the home side scored again, but in controversial circumstances, after what looked like a Mo’unga knock-on was ruled to be knocked out of his hands by Weber.
The resulting play ended with Weber being yellow carded for being offside when he made a goal line tackle. An effort that was to no avail as the Crusaders were awarded a penalty try to make it 18 unanswered points.
The Chiefs were getting torn apart in open play and the Crusaders looked to have scored again after Reece charged down the right wing, passing back inside to Drummond to score.
However, the try was ruled out after Reece’s pass was deemed to have travelled forward.
But the pressure continued and a beautiful move off the back of a lineout saw Mo’unga find a rampaging Will Jordan to burst through the Chiefs' line to score, extending the Crusaders' lead to 15 following Mo’unga’s conversion.
It was relentless stuff from the Crusaders and soon enough they were in again.
A strong run from Brodie McAlister led to a quick pass to Whetu Douglas, who promptly split two defenders to dive over for the Crusaders' fourth try of the evening.
A chaotic piece of play followed.
Fainga’anuku played a lovely chip from the left wing down into the Chiefs goal area, and for a moment it looked as if Havili had achieved the impossible by flicking it back into play for Fainga’anuku to touch down for an unlikely yet magnificent try.
But the TMO quickly ruled it out, with Havili having gone over the dead ball line as he touched the ball.
It was only a minor blip for the Crusaders, who moments later found the tryline again, this time through Mitchell Dunshea.
The Chiefs found the energy to hit back late through Etene Nanai-Seturo, but it was too little too late, the Crusaders taking a resounding 39-17 victory.