The injury-ravaged Crusaders held on for a 20-14 win over the Stormers in Saturday's much-anticipated clash at Newlands.
An injury-ravaged Crusaders held on for a tight 14-20 victory over the Stormers in their much-anticipated clash at Newlands on Saturday afternoon.
First-half injuries to full-back Israel Dagg, winger Sean Maitland and scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i, as well as back-line replacement Adam Whitelock, in the first-half had the Canterbury-based side on the back foot early into the encounter.
But two tries from front rower Wyatt Crockett along with a solid kicking performance from fly-half Matt Berquist were enough for coach Todd Blackadder's team to pick up their first win on their South African tour.
The Stormers were not outplayed by any means, with centre Jaque Fourie dotting down in the first stanza to help them take the lead. But two kickable penalties for Stormers turned down late in the second-half could have tied matters up at 20-20, with captain Schalk Burger choosing to kick out for the line-out on both occasions, to no success.
All the talk in the build-up to the game was about the effect of Crusaders centre Sonny Bill Williams, along with his midfield partner Robbie Fruean, and their match-up with the Stormers and Springbok centre pairing of Jean de Villiers and Fourie.
And Williams lived up to his star billing when in the ninth minute he got his hands through a tackle to deliver yet another one of his trademark offloads to Maitland, with the speedster breaking upfield and then feeding his skipper Kieran Read. Read then showed some neat basketball skills to pop a pass over his tackler to the supporting Crockett who sped off to cross the try-line for the first try of the game.
The visitors were then shortly struck down with the first of their host of injuries, Dagg having to be carried off the field with what looked like an injured hamstring after he kicked out to touch. Maitland then also limped off soon afterwards.
The Stormers then seemed to sense the confusion in the re-shuffled Crusaders backline and kicked into gear in the 18th minute when from a line-out inside their opponents half the ball was spun down the line for the youngster Johann Sadie to crack the line at pace.
The winger then slipped an inside pass to the supporting Fourie who burst away to touchdown near the right corner flag.
Fotuali'i's injury just before half-time whistle brought on the Crusaders third substitution, but were dealt another blow when Maitland's replacement Whitelock was yanked off, too.
The Stormers came out after the break full of running and looked like getting on the scoreboard early, De Villiers, Fourie and Gio Aplon breaking the Crusaders defensive line on several occasions.
But that man Williams showed off his full repertoire of skills, putting in big tackles in the middle of the park along with getting some good go forward on the attack.
In fact, despite the injury-enforced back-line reshuffle – which saw substitute loose forward Matt Todd helping out at the back – the Crusaders started to string some phases together and went on the offensive rather than sitting back.
The breakthrough for Read's charges came in the 63rd minute when the pill was swung down the Crusaders line and Williams got himself involved again, sliding a neat pass to Fruean who barnstormed his way through several defenders down the right touch-line.
The midfield titan was finally brought down a few metres out from the whitewash, but the ball was recycled quickly and found it's way to Crockett again who powered his way over the try-line for his second five-pointer.
The Crusaders then tackled as if their lives depended on it, seeing off wave after wave of Stormers surges as the home team went in search of the elusive winning score.
But despite the win, the Cantabrians are still one point behind the Stormers on the full conference table, and remain second behind the Blues on the New Zealand ladder.
Pens: Cronje 3
Tries: Crockett 2
Cons: Berquist 2
Pens: Berquist 2
Yellow cards: Marshall (83rd minute)
Stormers: 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Johann Sadie, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Gio Aplon, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger (c), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Rynhardt Elstadt, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Brok Harris, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Nick Koster, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Juan de Jongh.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Sean Maitland 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Matt Berquist, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 George Whitelock, 5 Chris Jack, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Andrew Olorenshaw, 18 Joe Wheeler, 19 Matt Todd, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tom Marshall, 22 Adam Whitelock.
By Devin Hermanus