Crusaders hold onto two-point win
May 24, 2014
Nemani Nadolo was a constant threat throughout the match
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Hulking Highlanders winger Patrick Osborne was denied an 80th minute match-winning try as the Crusaders hung on for a 32-30 Super Rugby win in Dunedin on Saturday. Television match official Vinny Munro ruled Crusaders fullback Israel Dagg had made a try-saving tackle in shunting Osborne into touch as fulltime ticked over.
The Crusaders, who had looked stale and unimaginative in last week's 30-25 loss to the Sharks, ran in four superb tries but were matched every step of the way by the Highlanders, who also crossed four times. The Crusaders dominated the opening exchanges of an absorbing match, relentless at the breakdown and pressuring the Highlanders into mistakes inside their own 22.
Winger Johnny McNicholl butchered two early chances, knocking on after five minutes with an open try-line beckoning down the right then shoveling the forward pass which denied Nemani Nadolo a try. But the constant pressure eventually told, the Highlanders defence stretched as the Crusaders swung the attack from side to side for blindside flanker Jordan Taufua to crash over.
A last minute TMO decision ended the Highlanders fightback in their 32-30 loss (Available in Australia Only)
The Highlanders dug in, and were gifted an advantage when Crusaders openside flanker Richie McCaw was yellow carded in the 21st minute. They ran in two tries in six minutes to take a 12-7 lead, hooker Ged Robinson crashing over for the first as the Highlanders battered the line from an attacking scrum.
Osborne crossed for the second soon after, showing power and pace after sharp handling and pinpoint passing from Aaron Smith and Malakai Fekitoa gave him space down the left. Colin Slade nailed a 38th minute penalty to narrow the Highlanders' lead to 12-10 at half-time, then the Crusaders hit the front barely a minute after the restart.
Nadolo set up the try with a bullocking run to the line, prop Tim Perry crashing over for the five-pointer with fellow front-rower Nepo Laulala adding to the tally eight minutes later with the Crusaders' third. The bonus point try came in the 64th minute after Dagg hooked a high pass to Nadolo out wide, and the Crusaders looked ominous with a useful 29-18 lead.
But tries to Fekitoa and fullback Ben Smith brought the Highlanders back into range, before Osborne's last-gasp dive for the corner was denied by Dagg's desperate tackle.