The Crusaders posted their first win of the Super Rugby season with a comprehensive 33-18 victory over the Waratahs on Friday.
The Crusaders posted their first win of the 2011 Super Rugby season with a comprehensive 33-18 victory over the Waratahs in Nelson on Friday.
There hasn't been much to smile about in New Zealand over the past fortnight – in Christchurch especially – but the Crusaders brought some much-needed cheer after sweeping past the in-form Waratahs.
A consolation try from the Australians made the final scoreline look a bit more respectable, but this game belonged to the seven-time Super Rugby champs who didn't disappoint their fans at a sold-out Trafalgar Park.
Emotion was always going to play a big part for the Crusaders, and it was accompanied by sound tactics, defensive solidity, precision on attack and a flawless kicking display by Dan Carter.
The Waratahs were clearly outpointed in the scrums and at the breakdown, though they held their own in the line-outs. They hadn't conceded any tries in their first two games, but missed too many tackles as the Crusaders poured the pressure on and ran three past their trans-Tasman rivals.
It was the Waratahs who started the better of the two and got on the scoreboard first – Tom Carter dotting down in the corner thanks to a brilliant piece of work from hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, who offloaded the ball superbly to put his centre over.
Fly-half Daniel Halangahu – in for the injured Berrick Barnes – was unsuccessful with the ensuing conversion as he hooked the ball to the left.
The Crusaders responded with three points from Dan Carter after a powerful run from Brad Thorn resulted in a penalty – Polota-Nau undoing his earlier heroics by playing the ball off his feet.
Halangahu had a chance to extend his side's two-point lead with his first penalty shot of the evening, but made a mess of his attempt. The same couldn't be said of Dan Carter who was on song with his second penalty kick in the 17th minute that put his team in front (6-5).
The see-saw battle continued when a break-out from number eight Ben Mowan that resulted in a sensational solo try to scrum-half Luke Burgess after the Wallaby stepped in and out of two would-be tacklers for the Waratahs' second five-pointer.
Halangahu's was having a nightmare with the boot as the flags stayed down yet again. The visitors then suffered a major setback after Polota-Nau limped off with a knee injury.
It was only a matter of time before Beale took over the kicking, and banged over a monstrous penalty from 48m out to his push his side's lead to 6-13.
Dan Carter chipped away at the Waratahs' lead with his third successful penalty, but the turning point of the match followed soon after when a Burgess pass was intercepted by centre Robbie Fruean who raced 30m to score under the posts. Carter converted and the Crusaders were back in front (16-13).
The hosts clicked into fifth gear following that seven-pointer, and Fruean was over the whitewash again four minutes later after some good interplay between the backs and forwards – Matt Todd in particular – that ended with the Crusaders centre touching down in the corner.
Carter was once again on target with the boot – this time from far out – and the Crusaders were now in a commanding ten-point (23-13) lead over their trans-Tasman rivals.
The Crusaders threatened the Waratahs' line a few times more, before Carter ended the half with his sixth successful kick of the match to take his team into the half-time sheds 26-13 ahead.
Sonny Bill Williams began scratchily in his Super Rugby debut, but like his team-mates he warmed to his work as the first half progressed then hit his straps two minutes after the restart by stepping inside and out en route to the tryline to extend his team's lead to 33-13.
The game lost its shape after that, with both teams making substitutions, and it was the fresh legs of Waratahs wing Afa Pakalani which enabled him to score his team's third try seven minutes from full-time.
Tries: Fruean 2, Williams
Cons: Carter 3
Pens: Carter 4
Tries: Carter, Burgess, Pakalani
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Sonny Bill Williams,11 Adam Whitelock, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Chris Jack, 19 Jonathan Poff, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Matt Berquist, 22 Tom Marshall.
Waratahs: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Daniel Halangahu, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Phil Waugh (c), 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Sekope Kepu.
Replacements: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Pat McCutcheon, 20 Brendan McKibbin, 21 Ryan Cross, 22 Afa Pakalani.
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)