The Crusaders scored two tries in the final ten minutes of a riveting match to see off a determined Force outfit 42-30 in Perth.
The Crusaders scored two tries in the final ten minutes of a riveting match to see off a determined Force outfit 42-30 in Perth on Saturday.
Seven tries were scored in all, with the visitors bagging five of those, in a free-flowing spectacle that never once let up from start to finish.
Twice the Force led the seven-time Super Rugby champs, after it seemed the hosts were dead and buried following two tries inside the opening seven minutes to Crusaders full-back Israel Dagg.
But once again the flawless boot of Force centre James O'Connor – he kicked five penalties – kept his team in with a shout, and when Cameron Shepherd went over for the first of his brace, the Crusaders knew they had a game on their hands.
However Todd Blackadders' men, just like they always do, replied in typical fashion with two quickfire tries to hooker Corey Flynn and scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i with the clock winding down to win the match and deny the Force a single point for their efforts.
The visitors scored the first try just three minutes in, when Sean Maitland broke a tackle and found Dagg on his inside for an easy run in. Berquist missed the conversion, but his second was made much easier by Dagg who beat several tackles to score his second try shortly after.
O'Connor chipped away at the Crusaders' lead with three penalty goals. And the Force soon took the lead after a brilliant counter-attack sparked by David Smith saw the ball passed several times before being worked to Shepherd for one of the tries of the season.
But the hosts' lead was short-lived as Dagg broke through once again and found Sonny Bill Williams on his inside for a superb reply under the posts. The Force weren't done yet, however, and another O'Connor penalty cut the half-time margin to three (22-19).
The Kiwis doubled their three-point lead early in the second half courtesy of a Berquist penalty, but the game turned when Crusaders skipper Richie McCaw was sent off for for repeated infringements in the 47th minute.
The Force piled on 11 points during his ten-minute absence, including Shepherd's second try, to lead 30-25 and an upset loomed.
Another Berquist penalty closed the gap, before the Crusaders stormed home in the dying minutes with a 71st-minute try by Flynn, and the sealer through Fotuali'i in the 75th minute.
Tries: Shepherd 2
Pens: O'Connor 5, Ripia
Tries: Dagg 2, Williams, Flynn, Fotuali'i
Cons: Berquist 4
Pens: Berquist 3
Western Force: 15 Cameron Shepherd, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Patrick Dellit, 12 James O'Connor, 11 David Smith, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Richard Brown, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Matt Dunning, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Kieran Longbottom, 18 Matt Hodgson, 19 Tevita Metuisela, 20 James Stannard, 21 Rory Sidey, 22 Alfie Mafi.
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 Richie McCaw (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Chris Jack, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Joe Wheeler / Reuben Thorne, 19 Jonathan Poff, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tom Marshall, 22 Adam Whitelock.
Referee: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)