Super Rugby
Crusaders win Southern Derby in Dunedin
Andy Withers
February 21, 2015
Report Match details
Date/Time: Feb 21, 2015, 19:35 local, 06:35 GMT
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Highlanders 20 - 26 Crusaders
Half-time: 7 - 20
Tries: Fekitoa, AL Smith
Cons: Sopoaga 2
Pens: Sopoaga 2
Tries: Barrett, McNicholl
Cons: Slade 2
Pens: Slade 4
The Crusaders' Colin Slade makes a half-break, Highlanders v Crusaders, Super Rugby, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, February 21, 2015
Colin Slade produced a big performance on attack for the Crusaders
© Getty Images

The Crusaders won the first Southern Derby of the year on the back of a dominant second quarter in which the Highlanders dropped off the necessary pace and tempo.

The visitors scored two tries in that spell, both the result of suffocating and relentless pressure on the Highlanders' line, while Aaron Smith crossed for the hosts, scoring almost immediately after Colin Slade had kicked the first points of the game for the Crusaders: the seven-time champions spilled the ensuing kick-off and the Highlanders forced Israel Dagg into touch after kicking though; the Highlanders won the lineout and displayed patience in attack to go through six phases before the All Blacks scrum-half sniped right from a ruck for a score converted easily by Lima Sopoaga.

Scott Barrett, the younger brother of Hurricanes and New Zealand fly-half Beauden Barrett, scored the visitors' first try on debut, the second-row driven over after multiple phases after Slade had hit a post with a goal kick from distance; in between times, Richie McCaw was driven over but held up, and Barrett crossed three phases after the ensuing five-metre scrum.

Highlanders 20-26 Crusaders (Australia only)

The Highlanders thought they had scored almost immediately from the kick-off - again - after Sopoaga had claimed a high ball and made a clean break, the fly-half passing across his body inside to Jason Emery, who fed Ross Geldenhuys to cross under the black dot; but the initial pass from the playmaker was adjudged to have gone forward from the hands.

The Crusaders asserted and dominated the play, and Johnny McNicholl claimed his second try of the seaosn, after the half-time siren, the winger stepping inside to go through drifting defence in first-phase attack from a five-metre scrum under the posts.

The Highlanders' Lima Sopoaga claims a high ball, Highlanders v Crusaders, Super Rugby, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, February 21, 2015
Lima Sopoaga was good for the Highlanders, particularly in the second half © Getty Images

Slade landed his third penalty goal to extend the lead 11 minutes into the second half, but the Crusaders lacked rhythm as they made substitutions, including Jordan Taufua for McCaw, and the Highlanders began to work their way back into the game - with All Blacks centre Malakai Fekitoa and first-game winger Waisake Naholo increasingly influential with their power running.

Fekitoa scored the Highlanders' second try, stepping back inside cover defence to put down under the posts after several phases, the centre taking a sharp pass from replacement half-back Fumiaki Tanaka, and Sopoaga converted and landed a penalty goal soon after to get the Highlanders within seven points; but that was as close as the hosts would get.

The Crusaders moved to close out the game before Slade kicked his fourth goal after a seemingly endless series of scrum resets, but the Highlanders would not be denied their bonus point; the hosts finished strongly through power running from Dan Pryor, and Sopoaga landed a penalty goal after the siren from just outside the 22.

"You need every point you can get in this competition," Highlanders co-captain Ben Smith said in praise of Sopoaga's final kick that ensued the hosts gained some reward from the fixture.

"We were rusty first half, and we have a lot to improve on," Smith said. "There's always a sense of belief, we still believed we could [wi, when they trailed midway through the second half] but it wasn't our day."

Crusaders captain Matt Todd described the game as "a true Southern Derby" and said "we were very happy to come away with the points in the end".

"Second half, we got down there and probably didn't capitalise as we should," Todd said of the Crusaders inability to score more than two penalty goals in the second stanza. "We knew the Highlanders were going to come back, and they certainly did."

The Scarfies gave the Highlanders noisy backing under the roof in Dunedin © Getty Images
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