The Crusaders have kick-started their Super Rugby title defence with a gritty 45-23 win over the Chiefs in Christchurch, a controversial penalty try late in the second half proving key in the season-opening victory.
Ahead 26-23 on Saturday with 10 minutes remaining, the Crusaders were hot in attack when Ryan Crotty dived for the corner but was bundled out in a high tackle by replacement Chiefs loosie Lachlan Boshier.
Referee Ben O'Keeffe binned Boshier and awarded the penalty try, the Crusaders suddenly comfortable at 33-23 ahead.
The winning margin ballooned out with intercept tries to George Bridge and Manasa Mataele as the Chiefs spun the ball chasing an unlikely victory.
The Crusaders had started strongly, out to a 12-point lead after just 14 minutes with tries to Matt Todd and Richie Mo'unga.
The Chiefs had their chances, particularly after first-five Richie Mo'unga was binned in the 20th minute for playing the ball off his feet.
One man down, the Crusaders responded in the best possible fashion, No.8 Jordan Taufua crashing over in the 30th minute to extend their lead to 19-3.
The Chiefs hit back two minutes later, winger Shaun Stevenson creating space with a mazy run on halfway before unleashing co-captain Sam Cane on a 30m run straight through the middle to score.
Sam Cane of the Chiefs scores a try against the Crusaders.
At 19-10 ahead, the Crusaders lost another man to a yellow card, four minutes after Mo'unga's return, with prop Michael Alaalatoa binned for a swinging arm in a tackle.
They held out the Chiefs until the 40th minute, the defence cracking when winger Solomon Alaimalo latched onto a pop pass from Damian McKenzie to score and reduce the Crusaders' lead to 19-17 at the break.
The Chiefs pressured from the restart, but were unable to convert their chances, held at bay by the Crusaders' powerful scrum before losing fullback Charlie Ngatai to an ankle injury after 55 minutes.
They still hit the front for the first time soon after through a McKenzie penalty, only for Sam Whitelock to crash over seven minutes later to steal it back for the Crusaders 26-20.
A 50m penalty from McKenzie gave the Chiefs brief hope, before the game was settled by the 70th-minute penalty try.