Written by Max Sharp.
A lot of haters will be regretting writing the Crusaders ahead of the Super Rugby Pacific playoffs. Scott Robertson's rotation of players throughout the season has well and truly paid off, with the big names all looking very fresh. The team overcame a red card and the Chiefs' 62% possession rate, to defend their hearts out and win, by their half-time score of 20-7, which had not changed by full-time. We'll do the usual and read through the players, from jersey number 1 through to 23, to see why the Crusaders could get their impressive win.
Crusaders Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - George Bower (7/10)
After a disappointing season, Bower has finally stood up and proves he deserves to be there. Went on storming runs, with 9 metres off 3 carries, while his 15 tackles and 1 turnover provided robust hits that his teammates were able to capitalise on. A timely performance.
Hooker - Codie Taylor (3/10)
Looked fairly ordinary out there and was subbed off for McAlister at half time. Taylor ran just 1 metre from a single carry, 11 total tackles and 2 lineout fails didn't match the energy of the other tight-five forwards in the Crusaders.
Tighthead Prop - Oli Jager (7/10)
Won a few good scrum penalties against the Chiefs' feed, rising to the occasion. Jager, like the other forwards, barely ran any metres (1 from 1 carry), but did his defence line justice with 19/21 tackle attempts. Ireland would be happy to call him up.
Lock 4 - Scott Barrett (8/10)
Another case of little-to-no attacking chances (just 6 metres from 4 carries), but excellent defence. Barrett showed great captaincy, with many calls paying off, while he made 28/29 tackles and 1 turnover in the absence of Sam Whitelock.
Lock 5 - Zach Gallagher (7/10)
Another tight-five forward who had to make a ridiculous number of tackles, 21 to be exact. Gallagher has now proven he's robust enough to handle tight games, winning a crucial lineout steal in the second half.
Blindside Flanker - Pablo Matera (2/10)
Had made a good defensive contribution before being sent off, having made 8 tackles and 2 turnovers, but a red card, for receiving two yellows, is never going to get a player a high rating. The big question will now loom over the potential unavailability of Matera next week.
Openside Flanker - Tom Christie (8/10)
Another defensive masterclass from the league's top tackler. Christie is well ahead of Cullen Grace, the next player still playing in the tournament's top tacklers list. 30 tackles against the Chiefs has taken Christie, to a season total of 233 tackles. No other player can reach 200 tackles for the season, while Christie can reach 250. Incredible.
Number 8 - Cullen Grace (9/10)
Well and truly the best player on the pitch. Grace, like Bower, after a suspect season stood up and played brilliantly with 41 metres and 2 clean break off 9 carries. Grace scored both of his team's tries, while making time for 4 passes and 24/28 tackles too. A great game.
Halfback - Bryn Hall (7/10)
32 passes is unusually low for a 9, Hall joined the defensive effort with 9/9 tackles and 1 turnover though. Overshadowed by Mo'unga again though, will he be able to match Finlay Christie in next week's inevitable match-up?
First-Five - Richie Mo'unga (9/10)
Any other All Blacks coach wouldn't even consider benching him. Mo'unga's presence made a massive difference as usual, his 2 conversions and 2 penalties keeping the team's lead. Ran 36 metres, beat 7 defenders and made 2 clean breaks off 6 carries, while fulfilling his usual role of selecting carriers with 19 passes and 1 offload. 7/9 tackles to quieten his haters.
Left Wing - Leicester Fainga'anuku (5/10)
Let's be real, wingers usually don't ever shine in matches like these. Fainga'anuku could attack strongly when given the ball, with 35 metres off 7 carries, but was mostly MIA off the ball, with just 3 tackles. Will Ian Foster use these facts against him? Hopefully not.
Second-Five - David Havili (9/10)
Cue the couch coaches' complaints about 14 metres and 2 defenders beaten off 5 carries. The Crusaders weren't interested in that tactically and Havili comprehensively outplayed Tupaea. He behaved as a true old-school 12, with genius tactical kicking, while still putting on a modern defensive masterclass with 14/16 tackles. Tactics > stats.
Centre - Jack Goodhue (7/10)
One of the match's few threatening runners, Goodhue attacked far straighter with his 32 metres and 1 defender beaten from 5 carries. Disappointingly, did not make any passes, but that's down to possession rates. Made 16 tackles, more than any of the Chiefs.
Right Wing - Sevu Reece (5/10)
Bad weather and a lack of possession confined Reece to just 1 metre off 1 carry in 80 minutes. Not an anonymous game though, just an average one. Reece still made 4 tackles and 1 turnover, while keeping himself open as a kicking option.
Fullback - Will Jordan (8/10)
He truly is a winger at heart. Rarely kicking the ball back, Jordan preferred the use of his IQ to run 92 metres, beat 6 defenders and make 1 clean break from his 6 carries. Provided a little bit of distribution with 5 passes, while making 9/11 tackles and 1 turnover.
Reserve Hooker - Brodie McAlister (7/10)
Despite his team having more possession in the second half than the first half, McAlister still made more tackles than Taylor, with 14. Failed to make metres in 3 carries, but kept the ball alive with a pass and an offload, supplementing these with 1 turnover too.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Tamaiti Williams (7/10)
Confirmed the victory for his team by using his 1.96m, 144kg frame to tear the Chiefs' scrum to pieces. Ran 4 metres off his 2 carries, while his defensive effort included 2/3 tackles and 1 turnover. The era of the short and stocky props may be coming to an end.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Fletcher Newell (7/10)
Lacked Williams' ruck speed but gave a genuine commitment to the result at scrum time. Made 1 pass and 8/9 tackles as well. Some people have promoted him as an All Blacks bolter, have they been right to do so?
Reserve Lock - Quinten Strange (5/10)
Back from injury and straight into the action off the bench. The Tasman captain was not initially named to play but replaced Gallagher off the bench with 24 to go, following Whitelock's thumb injury. Made 4 tackles and did his job in the lineout.
Reserve Loose Forward - Corey Kellow (No rating)
Came on after the end of Matera's red card and made 6 tackles in 29 minutes. Probably not enough involvement to be rated.
Reserve Halfback - Mitchell Drummond (6/10)
On for Hall in the 49th minute and got close to matching his amount of passes, thanks to the change in possession rates. Just 3/4 tackles but did his core role off the base of the rucks to a decent enough standard.
Reserve Midfielder - Braydon Ennor (No rating)
Played just 13 minutes after coming on for Goodhue so won't be rated. His chances at a test call-up this year become slimmer and slimmer.
Reserve Outside Back - George Bridge (No rating)
On for Fainga'anuku with just 10 minutes left. Bridge, at 27, is yet another All Black outside back to play his last test aged 26.