Chiefs keep playoff hopes alive with stunning upset of Crusaders in Fiji

The Chiefs have kept their Super Rugby playoff hopes alive by shocking the Crusaders 40-27 in Fiji on Saturday night.

In one of the more scintillating, yet bizarre, games of Super Rugby you are likely to witness, the 'hosts' in Suva came from 20-0 down after as many minutes to down the two-time defending champions in a 10-try thriller at ANZ Stadium.

In hot and humid conditions, players accustomed to running round in single-digit degrees, were very quickly dripping with sweat, lungs heaving, in a wide-open spectacle where defence seemed optional.

There were charged down kicks, awful lineout throws, several quick ones taken, handling errors aplenty with the slippery ball, but still a stunning spectacle, as both teams threw the ball from deep and each struggled to contain classy speed and footwork.

And then there was the scoreline, as the Chiefs roared back to 20-19 at halftime, then went on to seal the deal, with a 67th minute Shaun Stevenson try putting them ahead for the first time in the match.

The teams went into the contest at opposite ends of the spectrum - the Crusaders leading the competition and looking to seal top spot, and the Chiefs last in the New Zealand conference and needing an upset to keep a finals flicker alive.

After a decent feeling-out period, the Crusaders had settled for a 10th minute Richie Mo'unga penalty to open the scoring, but just a minute or so later, the floodgates burst open.

Scott Barrett provided all the inspiration the red and blacks could want, with a stunning 50-metre solo try - the first of three for the Crusaders in a 10-minute period.  After Atu Moli coughed up the pill in the middle of the park, Ryan Crotty collected the spoils and fed Barrett, who looked more like one of his brothers in open space on his lengthy gallop to the line, pushing off Alex Nankivell on his way.

Even with the ball falling off his tee mid run-up, Mo'unga's poise was such that he nonchalantly drop-kicked it over, and the defending champs were on their way.

The Chiefs' defence, having been so splendid against the Reds last weekend, was in disarray, with the Crusaders seemingly breaking the line at will.

With a penalty kick to the corner, strong lineout drive and Mitchell Drummond dummying and diving over, they extended their lead, then they made it 20-0 when, off the first scrum of the game, Braydon Ennor came off his wing to scoot past Anton Lienert-Brown and feed Sevu Reece, with the hometown hero searing away to the corner.

It was deja vu of the 58-27 shellacking in Christchurch in round four, as the Crusaders looked well on course for a sixth win in a row over the Chiefs.

Only the Chiefs had plenty of fight in them, and with their own stunning burst of three tries in eight minutes, were all of a sudden right back in it at the break.

Solomon Alaimalo inspired the comeback with a superb individual effort. Billy Harmon dropped a simple pass, and the ball was soon shifted to the Chiefs fullback, who stepped his opposite, David Havili, in style, in racing 80 metres.