Planet Rugby

Crusaders seal late comeback

08th March 2014 08:25

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Into the wall: Israel Dagg

Tom Taylor's 75th-minute penalty handed the Crusaders a 14-13 victory over the Stormers in a see-sawing encounter in Christchurch.

A game that started slowly, the Stormers arrived off the back of an unconvincing win over the Hurricanes last Friday.

Schalk Burger played out of his skin, epitomising the Stormers' defensive effort in his first match on New Zealand soil since the 2011 Rugby World Cup. On the basis of this performance, he should make the next one in England in 2015.

The Crusaders' problems though, as witnessed extensively in their first two matches of the season, were disturbing. Selecting one of the world's best full-backs in Israel Dagg on the wing was a head-scratcher. Willi Heinz struggled continually to create quick ball at the breakdown.

Handling errors mounted and the execution from the hosts for the first 70 minutes was way off the mark.

The concept of the seven-time champions losing their three opening matches felt inconceivable, especially when two of those games have been at home. It hadn't happened since 1996.

Taylor's opening penalty gave the hosts an early lead but they neglected to kick further shots at goal in a punishingly long period of attack in the Stormers 22.

Dagg came within centimetres of crossing the line but a surprisingly correct refereeing decision from Rohan Hoffmann brought the attack to an end, pinging All Blacks prop Owen Franks for hanging on to the jersey of Burger at a ruck. Burger was perhaps lucky his swinging punches didn't connect.

It took Stormers fly-half Demitri Catrakilis half an hour to respond on the scoreboard for the visitors, his three points coming after Jean de Villiers was denied a try at the base of the posts due to inconclusive footage.

The whole air of the match felt as though the Stormers were just soaking up the pressure and waiting to pounce on a breakaway, which was almost exactly what they did.

Jaco Taute should have secured the Stormers first try when he had Kobus Van Wyk in space on his outside, but the full-back foolishly held on to the ball.

Burger then provided his classiest touch, sucking in three defenders to release de Villiers who supplied the perfectly-weighted chip for Damien de Allende to gather and score.

That try put the visitors into a ten-point lead at 3-13. Given the Crusaders hadn't looked like scoring in the first 50 minutes, a comeback seemed increasingly unlikely.

The Crusaders though did have time on their side. A break from Heinz ended with Taylor's second penalty - his first points in an hour - to cut the gap to seven.

Kieron Fonotia then gave them belief. The Crusaders replacement wing, on his debut, barged through the drifting defence of Catrakilis to go over in the right corner and hand Taylor the chance to level the scores with the conversion. He couldn't land it, but ten minutes remained and the Stormers only led by two points with momentum swinging.

An offside penalty against Michael Rhodes handed Taylor the chance he needed to give the Crusaders the lead and the All Black duly obliged, the score standing at 14-13 with time ticking away.

It so nearly fell the Stormers way. Nizaam Carr made two monster carries in the Crusaders' 22 but had the ball ripped from his grasp by Johnny McNicholl, the home side now producing the heroic defensive work.

It was enough to secure the win, an unpromising opening half delivering a dramatic finish as the Crusaders bagged their first win of the season.

The scorers:

For Crusaders:
Try: Fonotia
Pens: Taylor 3

For Stormers:
Try: de Allende
Con: Catrakilis
Pens: Catrakilis 2

Crusaders: 15 Colin Slade, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Reynold Lee-Lo, 12 Ryan Crotty (vc), 11 Israel Dagg, 10 Tom Taylor, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Luke Whitelock, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Dominic Bird, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 Tyler Bleyendaal, 23 Kieron Fonotia.

Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jean de Villiers (c), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Gio Aplon, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Ruan Botha, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Peter Grant, 23 Sailosi Tagicakibau.

Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Ben O'Keefe (New Zealand)
Television match official: Chris Watt (New Zealand)

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