A rampaging Robbie Fruean scored a try in each half to fire the Canterbury Crusaders to a 37-33 away win over the New South Wales Waratahs in their Super Rugby match in Sydney yesterday.
The dashing outside center with a mohawk hairstyle also set up a third as the Crusaders ratcheted up the pressure in the second half, then fended off a late fightback to secure their sixth win of the season.
Replacement Sarel Pretorius scored a 74th-minute try which Berrick Barnes converted to bring the Waratahs within four points, but the Crusaders held firm in the closing minutes to strengthen their bid for a wild-card berth in the playoffs.
“Really stoked to come away with a win there. Really tough game,” Crusaders No. 8 Kieran Read said in a pitchside interview. “Both teams showed their intent early, [but] it was just nice to come away with a win.”
The Crusaders also welcomed back New Zealand’s World Cup-winning captain Richie McCaw from a prolonged foot injury, the 31-year-old loose forward coming on as a replacement early in the second half.
The visitors had the best of the first half, but they only took a 14-13 lead into the break after conceding the match’s first try to winger Atieli Pakalani from a botched lineout.
The hosts quickly spread the ball wide where Barnes fed a straight-running Adam Ashley-Cooper, who broke through the Crusaders line and dished off to Pakalani to cross in the right corner.
Fruean stole the momentum six minutes later when he burst through a pack of players, then bamboozled a clutch of defenders, before crossing beneath the posts.
The outside center then dashed down the left touch-line in the 34th minute and though he was held up by Barnes in the last line of defense, he managed to off-load to winger Zac Guildford, who crossed for the Crusaders’ second.
No. 8 Wycliff Palu briefly gave the Waratahs the lead six minutes after the break when he scooped up a ball that popped out of a rolling maul and thundered over the line, but Adam Whitlock snatched the lead back minutes later with a try, before Fruean capped a virtuoso display with his second in the 54th minute.
An All Blacks-laden chain of passes from Israel Dagg and Guildford ended with the dynamic midfielder, who shrugged off a limp tackle from inside center Tom Carter on the left touch-line and charged over the line in another play certain to draw the attention of New Zealand’s national selectors.
Taylor’s conversion made it 34-23 and though Pretorius’ late try buoyed the crowd of 30,000, the Crusaders won a late scrum to seal the match and consign the Waratahs to their fifth loss of the season.
H’LANDERS 36, CHEETAHS 33
Flyhalf Chris Noakes scored 17 points in 20 minutes as the Otago Highlanders snatched a dramatic victory over the Cheetahs in their Super Rugby encounter on Saturday.
Noakes, who replaced Mike Delany midway through the second half, grabbed a try, three conversions and two penalties — including a long-range effort with a minute to go that won the match for the New Zealanders.
The Highlanders had to rally from 30-9 down to record their seventh victory in nine matches and stay five points behind leaders the Waikato Chiefs.
The Cheetahs seemed to have the match sewn up when flyhalf Johan Goosen produced a jinking 70m try to put his team 28-9 up.
The brilliant 19-year-old, though, injured his shoulder while scoring the touchdown and had to leave the field.