The Crusaders have one hand on the Super Rugby Aotearoa title after a bounce-back 32-19 win in Hamilton, as yet another controversial refereeing call foiled the Chiefs’ chances.
The three-time defending Super Rugby champs marched to a bonus-point win in a five-tries-to-one victory that now puts them seven points clear of the Blues with two games to play, and was a fitting celebration for Sam Whitelock’s 150th match for the franchise.
On the other side of the coin, it was a miserable way for Aaron Cruden to mark his 100th game for the Chiefs, as his side, playing for nothing but pride, notched up their eighth successive loss on this horror streak.
Trailing just 20-19, boots kept the teams tight, the Chiefs looked to have survived a close one, as Will Jordan’s inside ball to Quinten Strange was dropped forward, before Reece swept to score.
Referee Ben O’Keeffe went to TMO Glenn Newman to check the direction of Strange’s drop and while the ball ended up behind the replacement lock, his momentum had taken him past the ball and it seemingly clearly travelled toward the Chiefs’ line.
O’Keeffe, though, who to the bemusement of all 15,082 at the ground, ruled ‘try’.
The Crusaders certainly deserved their victory, but that big moment certainly helped them on their way, after the hosts fought back from an early 12-0 deficit.
In the match today, the Highlanders will face the Blues at 3.35pm.
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