Planet Rugby

Giteau's brilliance costs Crusaders

14th March 2009 06:15

Share:

George Whitelock clear v force

On the run: George Whitelock breaks the Force defence

A superb performance from Matt Giteau nabbed his side a 23-23 draw against the Crusaders at AMI Stadium on Saturday.

With the pack ruling the loose and Stephen Brett impreious with the ball in hand, the home side ran in three terrific tries in the first half to put the game seemingly out of reach of the visitors but another marvellous performance from Giteau brought the Force back into the game and set up a tense finale.

It was the archetypal game of two halves - two fly-halves as well as the periods of time. Stephen Brett has had a miserable season at full-back where he is clearly uncomfortable but here he was, reinstated into the front line and running the show.

Then came the second half, and Matt Giteau, always stepping, always running, always with an extra trick up his sleeve. His side was 23-9 down but two moments of genius and two super goal-kicks restored parity to proceedings.

Theory is that Brett will one day be All Blacks pivot, in which case we had a future Australia v All Blacks fly-half clash here. Going on this basis, exciting times are ahead for whichever city is lucky enough to get the wandering Bledisloe match.

We had the Crusaders of old in the first half. The ball was shifted from left to right with nonchalance, forward intermingling with backs and offloading or passing with panache and precision. The Force couldn't get a look-in despite Giteau and co's best efforts.

Three penalties were won in the opening ten minutes, all for offside as the retreating Force defence failed to cope with the forward movement of the Crusaders' attack. Brett missed two, but nailed the third from 40m. Giteau responded in kind a minute later after an offside for the Crusaders, but then came a blitz.

Isaac Ross scored the first try, with Brett's pinpoint passing creating ample space for his attackers to create go-forward ball twice on the right and then swinging it back left, where Ross and two other forwards created a five on two overlap.

The second try three minutes later came as a result of Brett's quick thinking, as his forwards pinched a line-out and Brett's grubber through towards a goalpost had Drew Mitchell at sixes and sevens. Tim Bateman picked up the loose ball and crashed over under the sticks. Brett made it 15-3 with the extras.

Giteau responded with a penalty but the Crusaders were irrepressible. Brett scythed through the Force defence at one point to remind us all that he was the apprentice to Dan carter's sorcery for a couple of years.

The third try was the best of the lot, going through ten pairs of hands and two rucks before Ryan Crotty once again exploited an overlap on the left to score in the corner. Brett again couldn't find his range - his profligacy ended up being more costly than it looked.

The second half was different, very different. The Force forwards nudged a little harder, the defence pressed a little further up. Giteau's stepping started to take him further through the half-gaps and with more support. The visitors just raised themsevles a little.

Giteau reduced the arrears to 20-9 with a penalty, but Brett restored the 14-point lead five minutes later.

Then Giteau took the ball off the back of a line-out and produced a mesmerising run, outside, inside and outside again before flipping a long floated pass out to Haig Sare, whose toughest job at the finish was making sure he didn't overbalance into touch. Giteau landed a wonderful touchline conversion to bring the Force to within seven.

Twice the Crusaders could have regained their two-score lead. Ryan Crotty threw a grotty pass to ruin a three-man overlap, then Colin Slade was thumped into touch by Mitchell as he raced for the corner, a magnificent tackle.

Leon MacDonald was sin-binned for a mid-air tackle on James O'connor and the youngster got his revenge five minutes later as the All Black watched on helplessly, when Giteau stepped inside a defender and popped an inside offload perfectly for O'Connor to scamper through. Giteau levelled the scores with the conversion - five from five for him, three from six for Brett. A telling statistic: the youngster is still a finishing touch short of the real deal.

Man of the match: We'll give a joint one to the two showpiece players of what was an excellent game: Stephen Brett and Matt Giteau.

The scorers:

For the Crusaders:

Tries: Ross, Bateman, Crotty

Con: Brett

Pens: Brett 2

For the Force:

Tries: Sare, O'Connor

Cons: Giteau 2

Pens: Giteau 3

Yellow card: MacDonald (64, Crusaders, dangerous tackle)

Crusaders: 15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Adam Whitelock, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Colin Slade, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 George Whitelock, 6 Kieran Read (c), 5 Isaac Ross, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Bronson Murray, 2 Jason Macdonald, 1 Wyatt Crockett.

Replacements: 16 Dan Perrin, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Ross Filipo, 19 Nasi Manu, 20 Tyson Keats, 21 Hamish Gard, 22 Blair Cook.

Force: 15 Drew Mitchell, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 James O'Connor, 11 Cameron Shepherd, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Josh Valentine, 8 Tamaiti Horua, 7 David Pocock, 6 Richard Stanford, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 David Pusey, 3 Ben Castle, 2 Tai McIsaac, 1 Pek Cowan.

Replacements: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 AJ Whalley, 18 Tom Hockings, 19 Matt Hodgson, 20 Chris O'Young, 21 Junior Pelesasa, 22 Haig Sare.

Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

Touch judges: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Willie Roos (South Africa)

Television match official: Kane McBride (New Zealand)

Assessor: Greg Cooper (New Zealand)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
International Match
Saturday , November 1
Barbarians vs AustraliaBarbarians vs Australia Preview
USA vs New ZealandUSA vs New Zealand Preview
More International Match fixtures
LV= Cup
Saturday , November 1
Sale Sharks vs Wasps14:00
Exeter vs Gloucester15:00
Bath vs London Welsh15:00
London Irish vs Leicester15:00
Northampton vs Newcastle16:00
Sunday , November 2
Saracens vs Harlequins13:00
More LV= Cup fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Saturday , November 1
Cardiff Blues vs MunsterCardiff Blues vs Munster Preview
Scarlets vs ZebreScarlets vs Zebre Preview
Ulster vs Newport Gwent D'gonsUlster vs Newport Gwent D
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , November 1
Lyon vs Toulouse13:45
Racing Metro Paris vs Oyonnax18:30
La Rochelle vs Montpellier18:30
Brive vs Castres18:30
Stade Francais vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Bayonne vs Clermont Auvergne20:45
Sunday , November 2
Toulon vs Grenoble13:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 31
Ospreys 26 - 11 ConnachtOspreys vs Connacht Report
Glasgow 17 - 9 Benetton TrevisoGlasgow vs Benetton Treviso Report
Leinster 33 - 8 EdinburghLeinster vs Edinburgh Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 26
Castres 16 - 21 LeinsterCastres vs Leinster Report
Clermont Auvergne 35 - 3 Sale SharksClermont Auvergne vs Sale Sharks Report
Benetton Treviso 10 - 26 Racing Metro 92
Wasps 16 - 23 HarlequinsWasps vs Harlequins Report
Saturday , October 25
Ulster 13 - 23 ToulonUlster vs Toulon Report
Bath 19 - 21 ToulouseBath vs Toulouse Report
Montpellier 13 - 15 GlasgowMontpellier vs Glasgow Report
Northampton 34 - 6 OspreysNorthampton vs Ospreys Report
Scarlets 15 - 3 LeicesterScarlets vs Leicester Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Rovigo 18 - 33 Cardiff Blues
Oyonnax 15 - 25 Gloucester
Bucuresti 9 - 13 Stade Francais
Exeter 33 - 13 Connacht
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Currie Cup
Western Province 19 - 16 LionsWestern Province vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Taranaki 36 - 32 TasmanTaranaki vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 24
Munster 14 - 3 SaracensMunster vs Saracens Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Grenoble 15 - 25 London Irish
Brive 21 - 26 Zebre
Newport Gwent D'gons 26 - 30 Newcastle
Edinburgh 25 - 17 LOU Rugby
La Rochelle 25 - 13 Bayonne
Thursday , October 23
London Welsh 20 - 52 Bordeaux-BeglesLondon Welsh vs Bordeaux-Begles Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton625
2Saracens622
3Exeter620
4Bath620
5Wasps615