Sun, May 14, 2017 - Page 11 News List

Crusaders grind out 20-12 victory against Hurricanes


Canterbury captain Matt Todd yesterday scored the only try of the match early in the second half as the Crusaders remained unbeaten after 11 matches with a 20-12 victory over the Wellington Hurricanes in an enthralling Super Rugby encounter.

The Crusaders built their victory over the defending champions and fellow New Zealand powerhouse by starving Wellington’s explosive backs of possession and relying on a dominant scrum to grind down their defiant opponents.

The contest was locked 9-9 at halftime, but Todd took the Crusaders clear when the flanker touched down at the front of a driving maul that had rumbled through the Hurricanes defense after 10 minutes of relentless pressure following the interval.

Flyhalf Richie Mo’unga missed the conversion, but he added two second-half penalties, taking his tally to five for the match, as the Crusaders delighted a packed home crowd in Christchurch with a hard-fought, but ultimately deserved victory.

“We didn’t let them get anything going in the set pieces, so it’s a credit to our front row,” Crusaders center Ryan Crotty said in a pitch-side interview. “We knew it needed a massive effort from the boys in defense and we managed to shut them down.”

The match took a while to settle, as both sides turned the ball over regularly in the early exchanges before the hosts took the lead in the 12th minute when Mo’unga slotted home his first penalty after the Hurricanes were guilty of not rolling away.

The visitors hit back almost immediately when Jordie Barrett leveled the score from close range following an offside call and the fullback added a second penalty from distance to put the Hurricanes 6-3 ahead at the midpoint of the first half.

The Crusaders rallied to reclaim the lead as Mo’unga kicked two more penalties, the second when the Hurricanes’ scrum disintegrated in front of the posts, but Barrett slotted over another kick after the hooter to make it 9-9 at the break.

Despite seeing little of the ball, the Hurricanes wasted a huge opportunity when they trailed 17-12 with 15 minutes remaining, knocking the ball forward from an attacking line-out close to the line after twice turning down kicks at the posts.

The defeat was just the second of the season for the Hurricanes, who remain well in contention for a playoff berth in the Australasian group after recording eight victories in their first nine fixtures.

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