Crusaders down Highlanders 25-22 in Super Rugby thriller

Second-five Ryan Crotty made an incisive break through the Highlanders' line, before Crusaders exploited a huge overlap to see Tamanivalu cross over for his side's second try of the game.

Cape Town - An 83rd minute drop goal from replacement Mitchell Hunt has given the Crusaders a sensational victory over the Highlanders in their New Zealand Super Rugby derby in Christchurch on Saturday.

Crusaders forwards fielded the restart and drove their way up field, making a metre at a time for almost three minutes after the final hooter until Hunt banked over the match-winning drop goal.

The match brought further injury concerns for the All Blacks ahead of their test series against the British and Irish Lions when Highlanders fullback Ben Smith and Crusaders center Ryan Crotty left the field.

Naholo first pounced on a spilled high kick inside the Crusaders 22-metre area just after halftime, then plucked an intercept and raced 75 metres four minutes later to give his side a 22-19 advantage, their first lead of the game. The Highlanders gave possession back to the hosts with a 20 metre drop out, with the Crusaders mauling through 20 phases before Hunt slotted a most unlikely drop goal.

"Wyatt Crockett turned around and said: "do something with it" and there's wasn't anything else I could do", he said, admitting he was surprised that the kick went over.

It was the Crusaders' 14th consecutive victory, breaking their own Super Rugby record of 13 set in 2002.

The Highlanders, with their nine-match winning streak coming to an end, now nearly certainly face a lengthy journey to South Africa.

The seven-times champions, seeking their first title since 2008, also had tries from scrumhalf Mitchell Drummond, winger Seta Tamanivalu and flanker Heiden Bedwell-Curtis as they snapped the Highlanders' nine-match winning streak.

Chiefs looked home and hosed when they romped into a 32-3 lead early in the second half, only for the Tahs to storm back and reduce the arrears to 39-31, before James Lowe completed his hat-trick to secure a 46-31 success.

Bedwell-Curtis marked his return to the field with a try for the Crusaders to hold a 19-10 at half-time.

  • Julie Sanders