Damian McKenzie kicks Chiefs to vital win over Crusaders in Super Rugby Aotearoa
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Damian McKenzie kicked the winning penalty for the second week running as the Chiefs kept their final hopes alive with a 26-25 Super Rugby Aotearoa victory over the table-topping Crusaders in Hamilton on Saturday.
McKenzie, who was converted from fullback to flyhalf, landed the winning kick with three minutes remaining as the visitors were made to pay for the poor discipline that plagued them throughout the match.
The Crusaders remain top of the table with 23 points from seven games, but the Chiefs (16 points from six) leapfrog the Auckland Blues (15 from six) and Otago Highlanders (14 from seven) into second place.
Flanker Lachlan Boshier and wing Jonah Lowe scored tries for the home side, while centre Leicester Fainga'anuku, fullback Will Jordan and replacement hooker Codie Taylor crossed for the Crusaders.
Fainga'anuku, who had been switched from the wing to outside centre, showed his strength to power through a couple of Chiefs tackles and score the opening try inside six minutes.
McKenzie then landed three penalties in a row to put the Chiefs ahead before Jordan was set free by a combination of flyhalf Richie Mo'unga and loose-forward Scott Barrett to race away and score the visitors' second try for a 17-9 halftime lead.
The Chiefs dominated the opening 10 minutes in the second half and were rewarded with a try from close-range for Boshier to move to within a point. But their joy was short-lived.
The Crusaders opted for an attacking line-out rather than a kickable penalty and worked it through the phases for Taylor to bag his sixth try of the season to head the scorers list in Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Mo'unga inexplicably missed the easy conversion that proved crucial in the final result, and that allowed the Chiefs to retake the lead with 20 minutes remaining when Lowe crossed in the corner after the visitors had coughed up possession in midfield.
The teams traded penalties but the Chiefs held on for their fourth victory in succession as they continue to build momentum this season.