Sun, May 16, 2004 - Page 24 News List

Crusaders drill goalkicks to beat Stormers

AP , CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND

Stormers Hendrik Gerber, left, jumps in the air with Crusaders Marika Vunibaka, right, during the Super 12 semifinal at Jade Stadium in Christchurch, New Zealand, yesterday. The Crusaders won 27-16.

PHOTO: AFP

Daniel Carter scored 17 points from goalkicks to lift the Canterbury Crusaders to a 27-16 win over South Africa's Stormers in a Super 12 rugby semifinal at Jade Stadium on Saturday.

Carter kicked five penalties and a conversion -- six goals from seven attempts -- to advance the Crusaders, four-time champions, to a Super 12 final for the sixth time.

All Blacks halfback Justin Marshall, whose place in the match was threatened by injury, scored the first of Canterbury's two tries and played a pivotal leadership role in the closely balanced match.

Winger Caleb Ralph scored the second try 12 minutes from fulltime to give last year's finalists an 11-point advantage -- the small security of the largest lead in the match.

Springbok center De Wet Barry scored the game's first try for the Stormers who led 13-12 at halftime. But wearied by travel, the visitors faded under constant pressure in the second half.

The Stormers have played twice in Christchurch in the last two weeks, losing on both occasions, and have crossed 20 time zones on an arduous journey to the semifinals.

Canterbury played no-frills rugby Saturday, building strong, layered defense and more often promoting the ball through the forwards than through a backline studded with All Blacks.

"The guys stood up tonight," said Crusaders captain Reuben Thorne.

"The Stormers came here and threw everything into it as we knew they would. The first half was all about pressure. They put heaps on us but we managed to stay close. We piled it on a bit more in the second half and came away with the win.

"It was great to have [Justin] Marshall back directing the play and he made a huge difference.''

Scorers

* Canterbury Crusaders 27 (Justin Marshall, Caleb Ralph tries; Daniel Carter conversion, 5 penalties)

* Stormers 16 (De Wet Barry try; Gaffie du Toit conversion, 3 penalties)


Marshall was in doubt for the match until Friday, having been sidelined for two weeks with a serious hip injury.

"Our attitude at the start of every season is that we've got to get into top four," Marshall said. "We managed to achieve that although it's been a roller-coaster season.

"I suppose we've got the benefit of being in this situation a few times in the past. We know if you apply yourself and commit to giving your best performance when it counts you can do anything."

The match began with an exchange of penalties between Carter and Stormers flyhalf Gaffie du Toit, who kicked four goals Saturday from as many attempts.

Barry broke a 6-6 deadlock when he pierced Canterbury's midfield defense in the 29th minute and stretched to reach the line.

Marshall gave Canterbury its first lead when he scored in the 41st minute after attacks down the left flank through Ralph and the right through Marika Vunibaka.

Du Toit and Ralph swapped penalties before Ralph made the game safe with a 68th-minute try. Canterbury gained a five-meter scrum and moved the ball quickly into a left hand overlap to give Ralph the final, scoring pass.

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