Prop Wyatt Crockett touched down twice as the injury-ravaged Crusaders beat South Africa’s Stormers 20-14 in a high-octane clash between two of the Super Rugby title favorites on Saturday.
The home side slumped to their second defeat in 10 matches, but held on to top spot in the South African Conference, nine ahead of the second-placed Sharks.
The Crusaders, who lost Richie McCaw and Dan Carter through injury in the build-up to the match, suffered further setbacks when fullback Israel Dagg, winger Sean Maitland, scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali’i and replacement back Adam Whitelock all had to leave the field in a tense first half.
There was plenty of pre-match hype surrounding Crusaders center Sonny Bill Williams and his tussle with Springbok midfielders Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie.
Williams lived up to his star billing in front of a sellout crowd of 49,000 by offloading beautifully to Maitland in the lead-up to Crockett’s ninth-minute try.
Flyhalf Matt Berquist made it 7-0, but Stormers flyhalf Lionel Cronje, deputizing for injured first-choice Peter Grant, cut the deficit to four points in the 14th minute with the first of three penalties.
Fourie, the 62-Test veteran, then showed his class when debutant winger Johann Sadie cut through in midfield from a lineout, before passing to the long-legged center to run in unopposed.
Berquist and Cronje continued to trade penalties until Crockett burst through again in the 63rd minute for a converted try that gave the Crusaders a six-point lead that they would not relinquish.
SHARKS 34, BRUMBIES 16
REUTERS, DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA
The Sharks ran in four second half tries to seal their win over Australia’s Brumbies in their match at Kings Park on Saturday.
Trailing 16-6 at halftime, the hosts scored 28 unanswered points in the second half to secure their seventh win in 11 matches and move to within four points of the Stormers in the South African Conference.
The defeat consigned the Brumbies to their third consecutive defeat, but they had given full value for their halftime lead as the hosts made a plethora of errors.
“It was a massive second-half performance from my guys and I’m just happy we came away with the five points,” Sharks captain Stefan Terblanche said in a televised interview.
The visitors were by far the more impressive team in the first quarter and their industry was rewarded by two Matt Giteau penalties and a try for inside center Christian Lealiifano.
Lealiifano galloped clear from his own 10m line after the Sharks had conceded a turnover on the Brumbies’ try line.
Right wing Andrew Smith successfully chased an up-and-under and the ball traveled through three pairs of hands, before setting up the flying Lealiifano.
The Sharks seemed unable to keep their composure and they turned down two kickable penalties, while losing three of their own lineouts in the first 20 minutes, before finally opening their account courtesy of a penalty from flyhalf Patrick Lambie in the 26th minute.
Three minutes later Lambie added a second penalty, before Giteau restored his team’s 10-point advantage before halftime with his third successful penalty.
The Sharks began the second half with far more intent and three minutes after the resumption they finally breached their opponents defense when winger J.P. Pietersen stretched over to score in the tackle.