Scott Barrett of the Crusaders is tackled by Jesse Parete of the Chiefs (Getty Images)
Suva – Tumua Manu sealed a sensational comeback by the Chiefs who
stunned the Crusaders 40-27 to keep their slim Super Rugby playoff hopes
In the energy-sapping Fijian heat the Chiefs had to recover from a 20-point deficit midway through the first half to overtake the table-topping Crusaders.
In a 10-try extravaganza and one of the better matches of the season, the Crusaders made an explosive start piling on 20 points in a 12-minute burst against an ineffectual Chiefs defence.
The Chiefs, who chose to take their home game to the rugby-mad Pacific island nation, struck back with three quick tries to close the gap to 20-19 at half-time.
There was little between the sides in the second half until replacement back Manu’s late heroics.
It meant the Chief’s slim hope of making the final eight remains alive while the Crusaders are still two points short of being guaranteed the top spot.
Chiefs captain Sam Cane credited his outside backs “for sparking our attack on turnover ball” to get the side going “and from there it was just an arm wrestle”.
“I’m just incredibly proud. That’s one I’ll remember. It gives us just a sniff, but what a performance.”
An exchange of converted tries at the start of the second spell kept the margin at one-point and the match remained on a knife-edge.
In the 66th minute, a Shaun Stevenson try put the Chiefs in front for the first time and as the Crusaders battle to regain the lead, Manu scored the match-defining try.
For the Chiefs Solomon Alaimalo, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Jesse Parete, Brad Weber, Stevenson and Manu scored tries. Jack Debrezceni landed five conversions.
For the Crusaders, Scott Barrett, Mitchell Drummond, Seve Reece and Braydon Ennor scored tries with Richie Mo’unga landing two conversions and a penalty.
Tries: Solomon Alaimalo, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Jesse Parete, Brad Weber, Shaun Stevenson, Tuma Manu
Conversions: Jack Debreczeni (4).
Tries: Scott Barrett, Mitchell Drummond, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor
Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (2)
15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Sean Wainui, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Tyler Ardron, 4 Jesse Parete, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Atu Moli
Substitutes: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Daymon Leasuasu, 20 Mitchell Jacobson, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Tumua Manu.
15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Braydon Ennor, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Isi Tu’ungafasi, 18 George Bower, 19 Mitchell Dunshea, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 George Bridge