Planet Rugby

Crusaders book home semi

02nd May 2008 10:30

Share:

Leon McDonald

Rain Checked: Ryan Kankowski closes in on Leon MacDonald

The Crusaders all but sealed themselves a home semi-final with a closely contested 18-10 win over a brave Sharks outfit at a chilly AMI Stadium on Friday.

The Crusaders, eleven points clear of the Sharks on the table, were tipped to get the better of their shaky opponents but were rescued at the death by a late try to replacement prop Wyatt Crockett that saved some blushes.

The win takes the Crusaders to 47 points on the table for the time being - an enormous 11 points clear of their nearest challengers (the Waratahs) with just two further rounds remaining.

The third-placed Sharks, on the other hand, remain anchored on 32 points as their Australasian sojourn sinks further into despair with a quartet of teams below capable of leapfrogging them over the remainder of the round.

It was a cold, cold night in Christchurch and we certainly got a taste of winter in the Southern Hemisphere as the rain came down in bucket-loads before kick-off.

There was even some hail! But the game didn't hail in tries and it was never going to be a free-flowing extravaganza.

But it was still an entertaining sort of encounter as the competition's first and third-placed sides scored a try apiece in the first half and showed their pedigree in the process.

It wasn't the best start ever for the Sharks who coughed up possession three times in the opening two minutes and were guilty of giving away two free-kicks.

The Crusaders tried to take advantage, but a forward pass by Sean Maitland to Leon MacDonald ruled out a certain try following a neat cross-kick by Stephen Brett.

However, Brett was on hand once again to punish the Sharks for intercepting a ball from an off-side position with the simplest of penalty goals to open up the scoring in the fifth minute.

The Crusaders were patient in their build-up, working their opponents from left to right in a bid to find a hole in the black-and-white wall of defence.

The visitors were starved of possession and territory for the most part of the first half, and failed to make any significant impact when they did get their mitts on the ball.

A chance to draw level in the 14th minute went a-begging after Ruan Pienaar - a regular number nine who had a shocker at fly-half - failed to land a straight 35-metre shot at goal.

Four minutes later and the Crusaders were celebrating their first try after what seemed like a strong defensive effort by the visitors until veteran prop Greg Somerville bustled his way over from close range.

The TMO confirmed that the try was legitimate and Brett added the extras to give the hosts a handy ten-point lead.

Once the Sharks had finally made it into the Crusaders' 22 - it took them a good 25 minutes to do so - Rory Kockott took over goal-kicking duties from Pienaar, but wasn't any better after missing yet another sitter.

But another opportunity opened up for the Sharks following a silly mistake from Brett after his re-start sailed into touch, setting up a scrum for the South Africans just outside the Crusaders' 22.

In-form Sharks number eight Ryan Kankowski picked up from the base of the scrum, put in a huge hand-off on Richie McCaw and three other would-be tacklers for a powerful race in towards the tryline for a great score.

Kockott was more successful with his conversion - a much harder attempt than his previous one - and the Sharks were back in the game.

Australian prop Ben Franks was the Crusader who paid the price for the try when coach Robbie Deans decided Wyatt Crockett would do a better job with five minutes of the half remaining.

Deans was left to rue his decision after Crockett spilled the ball with the try-line at his mercy after a good build-up by the forwards, but another successful penalty by Brett at least helped extend the home side's lead.

But, at 13-7 in front, the Crusaders were left in a spot of bother when McCaw was seeing yellow after tackling wing Odwa Ndungane from an off-side position under the new laws.

Ndungane made a telling break and whilst the Crusaders skipper saved his team a probable try, he cost them a valuable member of the side for ten minutes.

He also gave the Sharks three points following Kockott's ensuing penalty kick that took the scores to 13-10 and in turn wrapped up the first half.

It was a cautious start by both sides in the second half - neither side wanting to make a mistake with the slippery ball and opting for the boot on more than one occasion.

At one stage the ball was kicked back and forth ten times - five apiece - until Brett's thump into touch finally ended the game of aerial ping-pong.

What the Sharks failed to do however was take more advantage of McCaw's absence, not managing to put any points past fourteen players.

They did however take the game to their hosts a lot better in the second half than they did in the first - and the under-pressure Crusaders were left doing most of the tackling.

The Sharks had fluffed two try-scoring opportunities thanks to dropped passes by Albert van den Berg and Craig Burden respectively, Kockott didn't help his team's cause either by missing a chance to level the scores with another penalty kick in the 58th minute.

Even after fourteen phases, the Sharks failed to get over the Crusaders whitewash. Hats off to the red-and-black machine for knocking the cogs out of the South Africans' engine.

The Crusaders hit back in typical fashion though and had Crockett to thank for a try that not only made up for his earlier blunder but ultimately sealed the hosts' victory.

With the rain flooding the pitch, Pienaar was unable to control a grubber kick ahead, Crockett kicked on further and Stefan Terblanche was unable to control either, Crockett kicked again and again once more until he flopped his body on the loose ball.

The TMO was called in to make a tight call and wasted little time in awarding the replacement forward the match-winning try five minutes from full-time.

Brett was unable to make the conversion, but the Crusaders were in a safe eight-point lead and denied the Sharks a crucial losing bonus-point which may come back to haunt the men from Durban.

At 18-10, that was that. The Crusaders showed once again that in the tight, difficult conditions of wintry rugby they have no peers.

For the Sharks, who must feel as though they're marooned on an Australasian island of despair, it leaves them with plenty to do over the final fortnight to grab another place in the semi-finals.

Man of the match: He have been on the losing side, but number eight Ryan Kankowski confirmed his class with a brilliant touchdown late in the first spell to keep the Sharks in a predominanantly tight encounter. One of the star performers of this year's campaign, Kankowski continues to stamp his authority on the game with every match he plays. He may not have gone to the World Cup, but this fellow is possibly the jewel in South Africa's rugby crown.

Moment of the match: The Sharks quite literally got crocked by Wyatt Crockett's try after the prop showed some lovely soccer skills to dribble past two defenders ala David Beckham to touch down for the match-winning try.

Villain of the match: Richie McCaw deserved his yellow card as he once again proved he is always going to push the boundaries of the laws until the match officials catch up to his wily ways.

The scorers:

For Crusaders:

Tries: Somerville, Crockett

Con: Brett

Pens: Brett 2

The Sharks:

Tries: Kankowski

Con: Kockott

Pen: Kockott

Yellow card(s): McCaw (Crusaders) - off-side in the tackle, 39.

The teams:

Crusaders: 15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Andrew Ellis,8 Nasi Manu, 7 Richard McCaw (c), 6 Kieran Read, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Ben Franks

Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ross Filipo, 19 George Whitelock, 20 Kahn Fotuali'i, 21 Hamish Gard, 22 Caleb Ralph

Sharks: 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Francois Steyn, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 AJ Venter, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johann Muller (c), 4 Albert van den Berg, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Skipper Badenhorst, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Jean Deysel, 19 Keegan Daniel, 20 Andries Strauss, 21 Henno Mentz, 22 Adrian Jacobs.

Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)

Touch judges: Brett Bowden (Australia), Josh Noonan (New Zealand)

Television match official: Kane McBride (New Zealand)

Touch judges: Kim Eichmann (New Zealand)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester vs Exeter19:45
Saturday , September 20
Sale vs London Welsh14:00
London Irish vs Saracens15:00
Harlequins vs Wasps15:00
Bath vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs Northampton14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 19
Munster vs Zebre19:30
Cardiff Blues vs Ulster19:35
Connacht vs Leinster19:35
Saturday , September 20
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow14:40
Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso18:00
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs Edinburgh16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 19
Brive vs Toulon18:00
Saturday , September 20
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulouse18:00
La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon18:00
Castres vs Oyonnax18:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:00
Montpellier vs Stade Francais18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 19
Lions vs Pumas19:10
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
Blue Bulls vs Sharks17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Wednesday, September 17
Southland vs TasmanSouthland vs Tasman Preview
Thursday , September 18
Northland vs Taranaki19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 14
Wasps 20 - 16 NorthamptonWasps vs Northampton Report
Newcastle 18 - 20 London IrishNewcastle vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 GlasgowCardiff Blues vs Glasgow Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 27 - 21 MontpellierBordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
ITM Cup
Waikato 26 - 21 Counties ManukauWaikato vs Counties Manukau Report
Hawkes Bay 41 - 0 Otago
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 13
Gloucester 34 - 27 Sale SharksGloucester vs Sale Sharks Report
Bath 53 - 26 London WelshBath vs London Welsh Report
Exeter 20 - 24 LeicesterExeter vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
New Zealand 14 - 10 South AfricaNew Zealand vs South Africa Report
Australia 32 - 25 ArgentinaAustralia vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 42 - 12 ScarletsLeinster vs Scarlets Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulouse 9 - 13 Clermont AuvergneToulouse vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Racing Metro Paris 28 - 11 LyonRacing Metro Paris vs Lyon Report
Bayonne 23 - 6 Brive
Oyonnax 40 - 27 Grenoble
Toulon 24 - 28 Stade FrancaisToulon vs Stade Francais Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 31 - 27 PumasGriquas vs Pumas Report
Cheetahs 30 - 30 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
Lions 35 - 33 Western ProvinceLions vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Bay Of Plenty 12 - 27 AucklandBay Of Plenty vs Auckland Report
Southland 36 - 34 Northland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 12
Harlequins 0 - 39 SaracensHarlequins vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Benetton Treviso 10 - 21 MunsterBenetton Treviso vs Munster Report
Newport Gwent D'gons 15 - 17 Ospreys
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens29
2Bath29
3Leicester Tigers29
4Exeter26
5Northampton26