Crusaders cruise into semi-finals

25th Jun 2011, 11:43

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First try for the Crusaders: Sonny Bill Williams

First try for the Crusaders: Sonny Bill Williams

The Crusaders booked their place in the Super Rugby semi-finals on Saturday with a convincing 36-8 win over the Sharks in Nelson.

The Crusaders booked their place in the Super Rugby semi-finals on Saturday with a convincing 36-8 win over the Sharks in Nelson.

The Crusaders will now travel to Cape Town to face the Stormers while the Blues will visit Brisbane where they will clash with the Reds.

Tries from Sonny Bill Williams, skipper Kieran Read and Ben Franks and 19 points from the boot of Dan Carter saw the seven-time champions book an amazing 13th semi-final.

The 'Saders led 13-5 at half time but were able to turn it up a notch in the second period with the visitors seldom threatening to fight back into contention.

It was always going to be a tough task for the Sharks against a team that has never lost a home knock-out game. The extra-long trip to New Zealand didn't help matters but there'll be no excuses from the Durban outfit as few will deny that the hosts were the stronger side on the day.

The opening stages were marked a number of uncharacteristic errors, especially from the Sharks, as the nerves of the big occasion seemed to get the better of the protagonists from both sides. A massive early scrum from the hosts didn't bode well for the Sharks, who continued to struggle somewhat in the set-pieces in much the same fashion as the clash at Twickenham earlier this season.

As the game progressed, the Crusaders showed why they are this tournaments' most successful team as they settled down and controlled proceedings.

The Crusaders were handed a gift in the first minute when Dan Carter was allowed to open the scoring from the kicking tee when Willem Alberts infringed at the first ruck.

The Sharks were first to cross the whitewash however when Alberts powered over on the ten-minute mark. Scrum-half Charl McLeod broke clear through the middle of a line-out before linking up with Keegan Daniel. The flank was stopped just short but Alberts had the strength to burrow his way over in the follow up.

Errors continued to hamper the opening half-hour and the home fans were wondering exactly what was going on when Carter missed his second kick to leave the Sharks in front.

The Crusaders took control of the last ten minutes of the half however. Another huge scrum was at the origin of their first try as they could spread the ball wide from a turnover. Sean Maitland's jink inside had the Sharks defenders wrong-footed and Sonny Bill Williams ran the perfect angle to slice through and score.

Williams was to thank for the hosts' next three points too, but we hope he isn't proud of his soccer-style theatrics that fooled ref Bryce Lawrence into awarding a penalty for a 'late' tackle. As a result, the Crusaders took an eight-point lead into the half-time break.

The visitors only points of the second half came early on when Pat Lambie landed a penalty but it was one-way traffic until the final whistle as the Crusaders kept the South African team pinned in their own half.

Cater added a penalty before Kieran Read's intercept try gave his side a 15-point lead, with half-an-hour to play.

A few more penalties from Carter and a late try from close range by Ben Franks sealed victory for the Crusaders.

Man of the match: Sonny Bill Williams was probably the most dangerous player on attack but he deserves the 'villain of the match' tag for his ballerina dive to sneak a penalty. In a workmanlike performance from the Crusaders, we'll go for captain Kieran Read, who not only scored the try that provided the killer blow to the Sharks' hopes, but played through the pain barrier with an injury ankle to work tirelessly around the fringes.

The scorers:

For the Crusaders:
Tries: Williams, Read, B. Franks
Cons: Carter 2, Berquist
Pens: Carter 5

For the Sharks:
Try: Alberts
Pens: Lambie

Crusaders: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Jonathan Poff, 20 Kahn Fotuali'i, 21 Matt Berquist, 22 Ryan Crotty/Brent Ward.

Sharks: 15 Patrick Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Stefan Terblanche (c), 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Gerhard Mostert, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Eugene van Staden, 18 Ross Skeate, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 Louis Ludik.

Venue: Trafalgar Park , Nelson
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Keith Brown (New Zealand), Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
TMO: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)