Johnny McNicholl strikes twice as Crusaders beat Chiefs to snap losing streak

FILE - Crusaders head coach Rob Penney. Photo: DJ Mills/AFP

FILE - Crusaders head coach Rob Penney. Photo: DJ Mills/AFP

Published Mar 29, 2024


Winger Johnny McNicholl grabbed two tries Friday as defending Super Rugby champions Canterbury Crusaders snapped a five-game losing streak with a 37-26 home win over the Waikato Chiefs to claim their first victory this season.

The Crusaders outscored the visitors by five tries to four in Christchurch to avenge their 33-29 defeat away to the Chiefs in Hamilton on the opening day of the season.

Having won Super Rugby titles in each of the last seven years under previous head coach Scott Robertson, the Crusaders had started the 2024 campaign under his replacement Rob Penney with five straight loses.

This was a significantly improved display from the hosts, who were disciplined throughout and took their chances in front of a home crowd.

The Crusaders threw off the shackles to open an early 12-0 lead with rapid-fire tries by full-back Chay Fihaki and Wales international McNicholl.

They first scored when scrum-half Noah Hotham darted down the blindside from a breakdown before Fihaki sprinted onto his perfectly-timed chip, then McNicholl crossed untouched after a quick ball from a ruck.

The Chiefs pulled a try back on 17 minutes when they turned over the ball and winger Emoni Narawa took a cut out pass to canter over.

The Crusaders hit back, claiming their third try inside the first 23 minutes when loose forward Cullen Grace crossed out wide.

Flyhalf Riley Hohepa converted from the touchline to put the Crusaders 19-5 up.

Late in an electric first-half, Chiefs playmaker Josh Jacomb found a gap in the defence before prop George Dyer crashed over for a converted try to make it 22-12 at the break after Hohepa had slotted another penalty.

The second-half was more even with both sides scoring two tries.

The Crusaders extended their lead when hooker George Bell hit the gas to beat Jacomb in the corner.

Chiefs centre Anton Lienert-Brown barrelled over for a converted try making it 27-19 with an hour gone.

McNicholl grabbed his second try when he picked off a loose Josh Ioane pass in midfield to sprint over from 80 metres.

The Chiefs pegged the Crusaders back to 34-26 inside the final ten minutes when scrum-half Cortez Ratima darted over for a late converted try after full-back Shaun Stevenson chipped the ball behind the defence.

The Crusaders held on as replacement back Rivez Reihana slotted a penalty two minutes from the whistle to seal the win.


Related Topics:

rugbyall blacks