Two scores from Robbie Freuan helped the Crusaders to a 37-33 bonus-point victory over the Waratahs at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.
Two tries from Robbie Freuan helped the Crusaders to a 37-33 bonus-point victory over the Waratahs on Sunday.
In what was widely predicted to be a one-sided clash due to the Sydney side's injury-depleted XV, it turned out to be much closer than expected.
An early try for home wing Atieli Pakalani was the message of intent from the Waratahs but the Crusaders in the end had too much in the tank, with centre Freuan picking up the man-of-the-match award following his two-try performance.
Both kickers had solid nights in front of goal, with Tom Taylor knocking over three penalties and four conversions from eight attempts, while Brendan McKibbin enjoyed a perfect six-from-six record that included four penalties and two conversions.
His first two points came after winger Pakalani capped off a flowing Waratahs play that involved Adam Ashley-Cooper, who was filling in at 15.
But then the Crusaders responded in the tenth minute as Fruean was put through a gap in the defence created by Andy Ellis' delayed pass and the centre rampaged to the whitewash from 40 out. Taylor's conversion was a simple one.
McKibbin put the home side back in front on the half-hour mark with a simple penalty but when Freuan set up wing Zac Guildford with a lovely offload, the tide looked to be turning.
It was 14-10 to the visitors following Taylor's extras, however, McKibbin was once again solid from the tee to make it a one-point ball game going into half-time at Allianz Stadium.
Soon after, Taylor was successful in front of goal just two minutes into the second period but when the Waratahs responded via Wycliff Palu's smart pick from the base of a scrum, the converted try pushed the Australian franchise back into the lead on 46 minutes.
It did not last long though as the seven-time Super Rugby champions went down the other end of the field and secured the bonus-point try in the 56th minute when the in-form Fruean scooted down the left touchline for a seemingly nigh on impossible score.
That prompted coach Todd Blackadder to send on Richie McCaw – returning for his first game since lifting the World Cup – and despite a McKibbin penalty and then Sarel Pretorius scoring a late converted try, Taylor's third penalty was enough to keep the 'Tahs at bay.
Tries: Pakalani, Palu, Pretorius
Con: McKibbin 2, Barnes
Pen: McKibbin 4
Tries: Freuan 2, Guildford, A Whitelock
Con: Taylor 4
Pen: Taylor 3
Waratahs: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Atieli Pakalani, 13 Tom Kingston, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Jono Jenkins, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Lopeti Timani, 20 Rocky Elsom, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Daniel Halangahu.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Adam Whitelock, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Tom Taylor, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Luke Romano, 4 Tom Donnelly, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Samuel Whitelock, 19 Richie McCaw, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Ryan Crotty, 22 Tom Marshall.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)