The Crusaders got back to winning ways in the Super 14 on Friday, following a hard-fought 35-6 victory over the Sharks at AMI Stadium.
The Crusaders got back to winning ways in the Super 14 on Friday, following a hard-fought 35-6 victory over the Sharks at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
All Blacks winger Zac Guildord bagged two of the four tries scored by the home side as the Crusaders bounced back from a humiliating defeat against the Reds in emphatic fashion.
The scoreline doesn't reflect the tussle between these two sides, and the Sharks were still in the contest with ten minutes of the match remaining. However, three touchdowns from the hosts during that time effectively ended this physical encounter as a contest.
Up 10-6 at half-time and just 16-6 with nine minutes to play, the hosts rocketed clear with late tries to Guildford, replacement centre Adam Whitelock and replacement hooker Quentin MacDonald to snare a bonus point.
The Sharks rarely threatened, relying on two well-struck penalties from more than 50m out by scrum-half Rory Kockott in the first half for their points, both aided by a stiff breeze.
They were starved of possession and territory for the most part by a Crusaders side who welcomed captain Richie McCaw's first appearance of the season for the final half hour off the bench.
The Sharks certainly had the run of play in the early stages and it took the Crusaders nearly ten minutes before they could get an attack going in their opposition's half, only to lose consecutive throw-ins.
As the Crusaders started to get more ball possession, pressure from the Sharks kept robbing them of any momentum in what was the most promising passage of play from the Durbanites this season.
The home side were finally rewarded for their efforts as Dan Carter converted a penalty and Guildford's first try against Kockott's two penalties to give his team a four-point lead heading into the break.
The Sharks, however, had every right to feel aggrieved in the build-up to Guildford's opening score after a knock-on from Crusaders prop Ben Franks was overlooked by referee Chris Pollock which led to a 40m burst by George Whitelock.
The flank was brought down inches from the Sharks line, but the ball was quickly recycled and swung to the left were Guildford still had some work to do by stepping inside two would-be tacklers and maneuvered his way over for his first five-pointer of the match.
With the wind behind them and their tails up, the Crusaders came out for the second half full of confidence and started to exert some dominance in certain aspects of the game, although defensive pressure from the Sharks did continue to prove a good foil.
The Sharks forwards also proved up to the task, but will be disappointed their excellent driving work and power in taking possession close to the Crusaders' line wasn't rewarded.
Penalties to Carter in the 48th and 61st minutes gave the Crusaders a ten-point lead, before trouble struck the Sharks in the worst possible way when Englishman Andy Goode – making his Super 14 debut – was yellow-carded for a high tackle.
The former England fly-half lasted only a few minutes after coming on as a replacement, and will be left to rue his silly mistake that cost the Sharks so dearly.
And then came that final three-try burst which effectively closed out any hopes the Sharks would have had that they could wrestle the game from the home side.
Man of the match: Bismarck du Plessis was prominent for the Sharks, and Rory Kockott made ammends for his kicking blunder last week. For the Crusaders, Dan Carter goaled three conversions and three penalties for fifteen points (becoming the third-highest scorer in Super Rugby on 960) while Zac Guildford's brace was a big contribution. But our vote goes to a powerful effort from Crusaders number eight Thomas Waldrom who busted his way past Sharks' defenders left, right and centre while carrying the ball with plenty of power and zest. He could have got a try too, had it not been for an incorrect call from the man in the middle for a forward pass and it was a shame he was seen hobbling off the field at the final whistle.
Tries: Guildford 2, A Whitelock, MacDonald
Cons: Carter 3
Pens: Carter 3
Pens: Kockott 2
Crusaders: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 George Whitelock, 6 Kieran Read (c), 5 Brad Thorn, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Ti'i Paulo, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Joe Wheeler, 19 Richie McCaw, 20 Kahn Fotuali'i, 21 Adam Whitelock, 22 Colin Slade.
Sharks: 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Adrian Jacobs, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johann Muller, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 John Smit (c), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Deon Carstens, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Andrew Goode, 22 Riaan Swanepoel.
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Vinny Munro (New Zealand), Keith Brown (New Zealand)
TMO: Kane McBride (New Zealand)