Tom Taylor justified his selection at flyhalf ahead of All Blacks star Daniel Carter by scoring all 31 points for the Canterbury Crusaders in a 31-24 win over the previously unbeaten Stormers in Super 15 rugby yesterday.
Taylor, son of former Canterbury and All Blacks center Warwick Taylor, scored a try and kicked a conversion and eight penalties as the Crusaders ended the Cape Town-based Stormers’ winning start to the season in their seventh match.
The Stormers scored two tries — by Springboks Juan de Jongh and Bryan Habana — but Taylor’s faultless goal-kicking performance earned the Crusaders their fourth win from seven games as they exploited field position and a steady supply of technical penalties.
Flyhalf Peter Grant, bloodied by a gash above his right eye, kicked a penalty in the fifth minute of injury time to cut Canterbury’s lead to seven points and to earn the Stormers a bonus point in the second match of a four-match tour of New Zealand and Australia.
Taylor was the star of the match, finishing one of the Crusaders’ few try-scoring chances and kicking with composure under pressure to clinch a vital win for the seven-time champions.
An out-of-form Carter, who returned late to the Crusaders side after recovering from an injury that wrecked his Rugby World Cup campaign last season, was forced to give up the No. 10 jersey to Taylor yesterday, making his first appearance in seven years at inside center.
He had another lackluster game, throwing a forced pass in the 21st minute that conceded the turnover from which De Jongh scored. Taylor compensated with his effort, rewarding a Crusaders game plan, which was based almost entirely on kicking for field position.
The Crusaders only rarely attempted the multi-phase play that had been their hallmark in previous seasons. Instead, they kicked to pin the Stormers in their own half and relied on pressure to throw up errors and penalties.
The Stormers were hard-hit by injuries. They lost Grant for a long period of the first half with a cut that was stitched, but wouldn’t stop bleeding. They also lost both starting locks — Adries Bekker and Eben Etzebeth — with injuries that disrupted their set pieces.
“We knew we needed to start well against these guys,” Crusaders captain Kieran Read said. “They’re such a great defensive team and they showed that again today.”
“I was happy with the way we started and just keeping it going for 80 minutes. We’ve just got to keep momentum going and hopefully get up again next week,” he said.
Taylor and Grant exchanged early penalties before Taylor’s try in the 13th minute gave the -Crusaders a 10-3 lead and a 19-13 lead at the half.
The Stormers threatened the Crusaders’ lead most severely midway through the second half when Habana scored after a movement involving more than 20 phases. Fullback Joe Pietersen missed the conversion — the only failed goal kick of the match — and Canterbury clung to a 22-21 lead.
The home side eased away with penalties to Taylor in the 65th, 71st and 76th minutes — all for -technical offenses — to establish a safe 10-point lead before Grant kicked the late penalty.
“I think we did well to get the bonus point at the end. We were hampered today by the injuries, so we’re happy with the one point,” Stormers captain Jean de Villiers said. “To lose two locks within the first 20 minutes of the game, that’s pretty tough, but that’s rugby, and injury will always be part of the game.”