Former Wales winger Johnny McNicholl has scored a try in each half as the Crusaders ended a five-match losing start to the Super Rugby Pacific season with a 37-26 win over the Chiefs.

McNicholl scored the second try for the Crusaders, who led 22-12 at halftime on Saturday, and then ran 70 meters for an intercept try in the 63rd minute with the lead threatened at 27-19.

The try marked a turning point for the home side who had began to look under pressure for the first time in the match and seemed in danger of slipping to their sixth successive defeat. With McNicholl's score they enjoyed the breathing space of a 15-point lead.

The importance of that buffer was made clearer when the Chiefs scored soon after, cutting the lead to 34-26.

Tested again, the Crusaders responded and won a penalty for a high tackle which gave them the 11-point lead they carried to fulltime.

"It's amazing. The boys fronted tonight," Crusaders captain Tom Christie said.

"One through 23, they lifted tonight from what we've had in the past. It just shows, a little bit of adversity we stuck together. There's a long way to go yet, we can acknowledge that, but it was a step in the right direction."

The Crusaders have struggled at set pieces, especially at lineouts this season which has blunted their game. They gave up nine lineouts against the throw in last weekend's 26-6 loss to the Blues.

McNicholl was an energetic addition to the Crusaders attack. He played for the Crusaders before leaving for Britain where he was capped 12 times by Wales. Saturday's match was his first home match in Christchurch in eight years.

McNicholl scored his first try in the 12th minute after an opening try to Chay Fihaki. Emoni Narawa and George Bell scored for the Chiefs before the break and the hosts crossed again through Cullen Grance.

The Crusaders started the second half with an extraordinary try to hooker George Bell who was put into a gap in the Chiefs' backline with a short pass from five-eighth Riley Hohepa. He showed pace on an angled run to the left corner.

After a try to the Chiefs' Anton Lienert-Brown, McNicholl's second swung the match in favour of the Crusaders.

Crusaders 37 (TRIES: McNicholl 2, Bell, Grace, Fihaki; CONS: Hohepa 2, Reihana; PENS: Hohepa, Reihana) def Chiefs 26 (TRIES: Narawa, Dyer, Lienert-Brown, Ratima; CONS: Jacomb, Ioane 2)


CRUSADERS (1-15): George Bower, George Bell, Fletcher Newell, Quinten Strange, Jamie Hannah, Corey Kellow, Tom Christie, Cullen Grace, Mitch Drummond, Riley Hohepa, Johnny McNicholl, Dallas McLeod, Levi Aumua, Sevu Reece, Chay Fihaki

RESERVES: James Mullen, Kershawl Sykes-Martin, Owen Franks, Dominic Gardiner, Fletcher Anderson, Noah Hotham, Rivez Reihana, Macca Springer

CHIEFS (1-15): Aidan Ross, Samisoni Taukei'aho, George Dyer, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Josh Lord, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Kaylum Boshier, Luke Jacobson (c), Xavier Roe, Josh Jacomb, Etene Nanai Seturo, Quinn Tupaea, Anton Lienert-Brown, Emoni Narawa, Shaun Stevenson

RESERVES: Bradley Slater, Jared Proffit, Reuben O'Neill, Jimmy Tupou, Simon Parker, Cortez Ratima, Josh Ioane, Daniel Rona