The Crusaders exacted revenge in their grudge match against reigning champions the Queensland Reds with a hard-fought 15-11 win yesterday.
The win in Christchurch lifted the Crusaders to fifth on the ladder with 37 points, seven astray of leaders the Chiefs, while the Reds languish on 26.
The Reds scored the only try of the match with hooker James Hanson dotting down in the first minute, while the Crusaders were forced to rely on the boot of flyhalf Tom Taylor who kicked five penalties.
With Wallabies coach Robbie Deans in the stand, the Reds frustrated the Crusaders and forced them into multiple handling errors with a fast closing defensive line.
Scott Higginbotham also led a committed forward pack that entered the breakdown in numbers to bully the Crusaders.
“We’re just happy to scrape away with a win. We needed it to continue our momentum,” a relieved Crusaders captain Kieran Read said. “The performance wasn’t there, but I guess it’s character. Credit to the boys that we hung in there and got the result.”
Where the Crusaders won the match was an ability to carve off huge territory either from playing wide or from the boot of Andy Ellis and an All Blacks-stacked forward pack who won crucial penalties at scrum time.
The Crusaders made the ideal start with the immediate try to Hanson from turnover ball when the Reds kicked off and James Slipper charged down Ellis’ attempted clearing kick.
The Crusaders picked up two penalties for Taylor to kick them into the lead, but it was the Reds who were playing the smarter rugby and their scrum weakness cost them a second try on the stroke of halftime.
The Reds regained the initiative two minutes into the second half when Mike Harris, who missed two shots at goal in the first spell, landed a penalty.
The Crusaders responded by unleashing Richie McCaw off the bench and he immediately teamed with Corey Flynn to drive the ball up to the Reds’ line where they won a penalty for Taylor to add three points.
AFP, DURBAN, South Africa
Young flyhalf Patrick Lambie scored all Sharks points as they triumphed 28-16 against the Highlanders on Saturday in the Super 15 at Kings Park Stadium.
Springbok Lambie converted his try midway through the second half of an infringement-infested match in the Indian Ocean city after succeeding with all seven penalty attempts for a home team who led 15-9 at halftime.
The 28-point haul lifted the season tally of the 21-year-old to 108 — 41 less than leader and fellow ’Bok Morne Steyn from the Bulls.
Highlanders prop and captain Jamie MacKintosh offered no excuses as his team failed to build on a dramatic victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein the previous weekend, when they overcame a 21-point deficit.
“The Sharks are a quality team who kicked well and defended superbly,” he said. “I really enjoyed the physicality of this match, but it is pretty disappointing to come away without any points.”
Lambie slotted five penalties and Delany three during a first half constantly interrupted by the shrill of the whistle and referee Steve Walsh lost his patience on 32 minutes and sent Sharks flank Jacques Botes to the sin bin.
The Highlanders edged ahead 11 minutes into the second half when replacement wing Kurt Baker went over for a soft try that Delany converted, but Lambie slotted two more penalties for a 21-16 lead before the Sharks’ only try.
CHEETAHS 17, FORCE 13
The Cheetahs edged the Western Force 17-13 in an error-strewn match at Free State Stadium on Saturday.
Cheetahs captain Adriaan Strauss, the outstanding player in the match, scored what proved the winning try when he crossed the Force line in the 54th minute.
The Cheetahs, trailing 13-9, opted not to kick at the posts three times in quick succession, having been awarded penalties in the Force 22m area.
The home team stretched the lead to 17-13 when flyhalf Sias Ebersohn landed his third penalty goal and a crucial moment came with 18 minutes to go when the Force were awarded a penalty in front of the Cheetahs’ posts.
They opted for a scrum, then conceded a penalty that enabled Cheetahs to kick their way out of danger.
The Cheetahs dominated possession during the first half, but were fortunate to lead 9-6 at halftime.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Force captain and Wallaby flank David Pocock said. “The Cheetahs’ defense was too good. We were disappointed we turned over the ball on their line right at the end.”
“They were good at the breakdowns. Every time we got momentum they stopped us,” Strauss said.