Planet Rugby

Crusaders crack to Highlanders

23rd April 2011 08:29

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matt todd crusaders v highlanders

Committed: Highlanders produce shock upset over Crusaders

The Highlanders continued their remarkable Super Rugby season after beating the Crusaders 26-18 in Nelson on Saturday.

It was the southerners' first win over their South Island rivals since 2009, and fully deserved as Jamie Joseph's men tackled the Crusaders into submission.

The Highlanders outscored the Crusaders three tries to two, with wing James Paterson bagging a brace, while veteran Highlanders' pivot Tony Brown punished the Crusaders' ill-discipline with three penalties.

With the Crusaders unable to capture a losing bonus point, the result keeps the two teams in the same positions they started the week in. But the Highlanders' seventh victory from nine matches puts them a point behind the seven-time Super Rugby champs.

The Crusaders were missing key players such as All Blacks Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read but they have now excuses, after being outplayed across the park by a Highlanders team which impressed in the forward exchanges and with some uncompromising defence.

The Crusaders wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, thanks to an opening penalty by fly-half Matt Berquist with barely two minutes gone on the clock.

Brown leveled the scores with a three-pointer of his own, before the Crusaders struck with the first try of the match - and boy was it a beauty.

Robbie Fruean created the overlap to put Israel Dagg into space, and the Crusaders full-back raced 30m before unleashing Zac Guildford on his outside for an easy run-in.

Berquist was successful with the ensuing conversion and another Crusaders' whitewash looked on the cards. However, the visitors had other ideas and struck back with a try of their own to Siale Piutau after quick hands by loose forwards Nasi Manu and John Hardie put the wing over in the corner. Brown missed the conversion.

Berquist banged over a well-struck drop-goal a few minutes later to extend his team's lead slightly, but the Highlanders once again dug deep to pull out another try out wide - this time to right wing James Paterson who skinned Dagg along the touchline for a superb score ten minutes from half-time.

This time Brown found his target and added the extras from far out which put the Highlanders in front for the first time in the match, and that's how it stayed at the break (13-15).

After a messy restart to the second half by Berquist, the Highlanders backs took advantage of a powerful scrum by their forwards on halfway and burst into Crusaders' danger-zone where Brown lofted a perfectly timed cross-field kick that landed straight into Paterson's hands for another fine try in the corner.

The Crusaders hammered away at the visitors but they were unable to make traction, at least centre Adam Whitelock swooped on a loose pass by Highlanders prop Jamie Mackintosh in midfield to sprint 50m and score unopposed in the corner.

That brought the Crusaders to within two points (18-20) with time on their side as well as their entire bench now on the field, including introducing regular starters Sonny Bill Williams and Sean Maitland, in an attempt to save the match.

But Brown was gifted two simple penalties in quick succession and the southerners expertly used the wind to protect their lead and hold out the previous New Zealand conference leaders.

The scorers:

For Crusaders:
Tries: Guildford, A Whitelock
Con: Berquist
Pen: Berquist
Drop: Berquist

For Highlanders:
Tries: Piutau, Paterson 2
Con: Brown
Pen: Brown 3

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Adam Whitelock, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Matt Berquist, 9 Andy Ellis (c), 8 Joe Wheeler, 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Chris Jack, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Wyatt Crockett
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Jonathan Poff, 20 Kahn Fotuali'i, 21 Sonny Bill Williams, 22 Sean Maitland.

Highlanders: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 James Paterson, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Ben Smith, 11 Siale Piutau, 10 Tony Brown, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Tom Donnelly, 3 Chris King, 2 Mo Schwalger, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Replacements: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 David Te Moana, 18 Nick Crosswell, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Sean Romans, 21 Matt Saunders, 22 Telusa Veainu.

Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)

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