Match report: Crusaders still unbeaten
March 28, 2008
The Crusaders scored their 12th victory against the Hurricanes from 16 matches between the two sides in Super rugby tonight to stretch their lead in the 2008 competition.
Ahead 17-3 at halftime, they held on for a 20-13 win in a fast and furious match before a near capacity 32,000 Westpac Stadium crowd, scoring two tries to one for their sixth consecutive victory over their opponents.
Unbeaten this season, the Crusaders stretched their lead to 33 points, 12 ahead of the second-placed Sharks, before the rest of the weekend matches.
The victory, however, could have come at a cost, with their All Black first five-eighth Dan Carter helped off the field with an injury to his right leg.
The ace playmaker and goalkicker grimaced in pain, holding his leg, after tackling Hurricanes replacement midfielder Tane Tu'ipulotu in the 66th minute.
The extent of the injury was not known immediately.
Hooker Corey Flynn and lock Ali Williams scored the Crusaders' two tries in the first half. Carter kicked both conversions and a penalty and added a penalty in the second half.
Hurricanes first five-eighth Jimmy Gopperth succeeded with just one penalty goal from three attempts in the first half before converting hooker Andrew Hore's 69th minute try. Halfback Piri Weepu also kicked a penalty for the home side.
In all, Gopperth missed three penalties, Carter one and his teammate Leon MacDonald one.
The Crusaders couldn't have hoped for the better start, stunning both the Hurricanes and their fans with a try from kickoff.
Crusaders flanker and captain Richie McCaw expertly stole the ball when Hurricanes lock Craig Clarke hit the deck after taking the kickoff.
The Crusaders rumbled ahead with Williams linking up to put Flynn through for the try. Carter added the conversion.
McCaw thwarted the Hurricanes' attack when the home side turned up the heat.
After hammering at the line and then taking a free-kick from five metres, the Hurricanes formed a quick ruck to have another shot the line but McCaw turned over possession, denying what was to be the home team's best chance of scoring in the first half.
The Crusaders, as all season, showed more discipline than their opponents and were far more accurate than the Hurricanes all over the park.
Williams scored in the 35th minute when No 8 Mose Tuiali'i chipped a kick ahead following a blindside attack. The bouncing ball deceived Hurricanes No 8 Rodney So'oialo and a chasing Williams was man-on-the-spot to score. Carter converted and the Crusaders led 17-3.
Weepu took over the kicking from Gopperth in the second half and added to the Hurricanes score with a penalty.
Carter misdirected his penalty shot but succeeded with another to make it 20-6.
The tide changed when the Hurricanes tightened the game and dominated possession and rucks.
As they piled on pressure, the penalties and freekicks built up and referee Steve Walsh sinbinned Tuiali'i after warning both sides about infringements in the rucks.
With a man down in the opposition, the Hurricanes drove from a lineout and hooker Andrew Hore scored.
Gopperth took over the kicking after Weepu was replaced and added the conversion.
Crusaders captain McCaw said it was the most intense game his team had played this season.
"That second half, the ball just never seemed to stop. There was tap and goes, all sorts. But we managed to hang in there and get away with the win," he told Sky Sport.
"We knew we had to start well. Coming off the bye, we knew they'd be fizzed up to start.
"That first try did knock the puff out of them a wee bit perhaps."
McCaw agreed his side had adopted a defensive mindset in the second half and nearly paid for it.
"We got a little bit rattled midway through the second half but that's the nature of the game," he said.
"We got chances to put the ball down their end and relieve a bit of pressure but we perhaps took the wrong options, went on our own and gave away a free kick or a turnover."
McCaw said next week's bye had arrived at a good time as injuries and fatigue were creeping into the squad.
His Hurricanes counterpart Rodney So'oialo said nothing surprised him about the tight nature of the game.
"It was always going to be tough, especially with all the hype and talk about it," he said.
"The Crusaders didn't disappoint us at all. They're the best team out there and they certainly proved that tonight."
First-half errors proved the difference, So'oialo believed, with the Crusaders' capitalising on them expertly.
"That's what they're really good at, they're really clinical over the rucks and their handling errors were a lot less than what we had, especially in that first half," So'oialo said.
"We started controlling the majority of the second half and that's what our game's based on.
"But it's pretty hard to give the Crusaders any lead."
The Crusaders beat the Hurricanes 20-13 in their Super 14 rugby match at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, tonight.-
Crusaders 20 (Corey Flynn, Ali Williams tries; Dan Carter 2 pen, 2 con), Hurricanes 13 (Andrew Hore try; Jimmy Gopperth pen, con; Piri Weepu pen). Halftime 17-3.
Hurricanes: Cory Jane, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Tamati Ellison, Shannon Paku, Jimmy Gopperth, Piri Weepu, Rodney So'oialo (captain), Chris Masoe, Jerry Collins, Jason Eaton, Craig Clarke, Neemia Tialata Andrew Hore, John Schwalger. Reserves: Hikawera Elliot, Tim Fairbrother, Jeremy Thrush, Scott Waldrom, Alby Mathewson, Tane Tu'ipulotu, Hosea Gear.
Crusaders: Leon MacDonald, Scott Hamilton, Casey Laulala, Tim Bateman, Kade Poki, Daniel Carter, Andrew Ellis, Mose Tuiali'i, Richard McCaw (captain), Kieran Read, Ali Williams, Brad Thorn, Greg Somerville, Corey Flynn, Ben Franks. Reserves: Ti'i Paulo, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Paterson, Nasi Manu, Kahn Fotuali'i, Caleb Ralph, Sean Maitland.