Chiefs rally to stun Crusaders 40-27 in Super Rugby

SUVA, Fiji (AP) — The Hamilton-based Chiefs rallied from 20-0 down after 20 minutes Saturday to beat the Christchurch-based Crusaders 40-27 in a 10-try New Zealand derby which just keeps alive their playoffs hopes.

The Crusaders made a quick start, scoring tries through Scott Barrett, Mitchell Drummond and Fiji-born Sevu Reece to open a 20-0 lead in even time.

But the match turned from the half hour point as the Chiefs scored three tries in nine minutes — through Solomon Alaimalu, Samisoni Taukei'aho and Jesse Parete — to make the score 20-19 after a six-try first half.

The Crusaders scored through winger Braydon Ennor to expand their lead to 27-19 at the start of the second half. But the Chiefs hit back again with a try to live-wire scrumhalf Brad Weber to restore a one-point margin.

The Chiefs finally hit the front in the 66th minute when winger Shaun Stevenson broke the line and touched down under the posts. Jack Debreczeni's conversion gave the Chiefs their first lead at 33-27.

Replacement Tumua Manu then pounced on a short 22 restart in the 78th minute to score the try which sealed the Chiefs' win and denied the Crusaders a bonus point.

The Crusaders have begun to stagger in the late stages of the season, drawing two and losing one of their last four games. They still need two points to clinch first place and home advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Chiefs have only a faint chance of reaching the top eight with one match remaining against the Melbourne Rebels.

"That was seriously tough but, gee, it was satisfying too," Chiefs captain Sam Cane said. "There was a lot of early chat that we were out of it but, man, we were working hard and we knew they were too. And around the 30 minute mark things just seemed to open up a little bit."

Earlier, the ACT Brumbies likely secured a playoffs place and moved closer to sealing first place in the Australian conference with a 42-19, bonus point win over Japan's Sunwolves.

The six tries to three win over the last-placed Wolves came much harder than the Brumbies might have expected or the scoreline indicated.

The Sunwolves scored the first try of the match through Hosea Saumaki within a minute of the kickoff and were still in the game at halftime when they trailed 21-12. When the Brumbies scored early in the second half, they immediately replied to make the score 28-19.

But the Brumbies pulled away with a second-half hat trick to replacement hooker Connal Mcinerney, all from rolling mauls. Mcinerney scored in the 48th, 58th and 70th minute to give the Brumbies their fourth straight win, their first four-match winning streak since 2016.

Pete Samu, Irae Simone and Tom Banks also scored tries for the Brumbies.

"I was to get the win but we had to work really, really hard for it," Brumbies captain Chris Lealiifano said. "They're a fantastic team the Sunwolves and they put us under a lot of pressure there.

"We had to find different ways to get some momentum back and I thought our forwards were amazing today."

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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