Crusaders escape to victory over Rebels
April 28, 2013
Zac Guildford claimed his first try of the season
© Getty Images
The Crusaders escaped to victory over Melbourne Rebels at AMI Stadium on Sunday afternoon, but only after the battlers of the Australian conference had given the seven-time Super Rugby champions an almighty scare in Christchurch. The hosts scored two tries in the opening 12 minutes, when they looked set to blow the lowly Rebels away, but they were eventually made to work hard for their victory.
Unanswered tries from Rebels players Scott Higginbothom, James O'Conner and Ged Robinson saw the visitors hit the front for the first time late in the contest, but Tom Taylor landed his fifth and sixth penalty goals in the final 10 minutes to ensure the home victory that saw the Crusaders leap-frog the Hurricanes into third place in the New Zealand conference on 30 points. Ultimately, the Rebels were left to rue missed kicks from O'Connor that left 11 points on the pitch.
The match seemed set to steer a very different course when Zac Guildford and Tyler Bleyendaal crossed for early tries, the former claiming his first try of the season after the Crusaders had counter-attacked from inside their own 22, but the Rebels overcame lineout issues and numerous handling errors to hit back when Higginbothom muscled his way over from a ruck near the line.
The Rebels stormed into the match with a strong southerly at their backs after the break, O'Conner the catalyst for a number of searing linebreaks in the playmaking role, and his kicking combination with New Zealand-born fullback Jason Woodward secured handy field position at crucial times.
O'Conner and Robinson crossed the whitewash within the space of five minutes to claim an unlikely lead, and the Crusaders were staring at another "banana skin" loss, after their defeat by Western Force a fortnight ago. But Woodward gifted field position to the hosts when he kicked the ball dead from a penalty; it was a game-changing moment, as the Crusaders claimed momentum with the reinforcements from the bench and Taylor remained accurate from the kicking tee to claim the victory.
The Rebels made the Crusaders fight for 80 minutes (video available only in Australia)