Crusaders get out of jail
May 31, 2013
Peter Betham was powerful for the Waratahs
© Getty Images
The Crusaders have kept alive their hopes of contesting the Super Rugby finals, overcoming a 12-point deficit in the second half to defeat New South Wales Waratahs at AMI Stadium on Friday. Berrick Barnes had an opportunity to win the game for the visitors after the siren, but the Waratahs' replacement pushed his penalty kick wide and the Crusaders got out of jail.
The Waratahs twice led by 12 points, but the Crusaders chiselled their way back into the game - Dan Carter to the forefront with his kicking and running the ball to the line to get vital advantage line position that allowed his side to put the visitors under pressure. Carter completed the comeback five minutes from full-time, landing a 49-metre penalty goal to give his side the lead for the first time having kicked another goal to reduce the margin just minutes earlier.
"It was a 'get out of jail' alright," Crusaders flanker George Whitelock said. "We struggled all night, but we just ground our way back into it. We were lucky to get away with the win. We were really slow to react in the first half, they were beating us round the corner and getting over the advantage line. We don't want too many more of those."
Waratahs captain Dave Dennis lamented that his side was "one kick short".
"Discipline probably let us down a little bit," Dennis said. "They kicked a few penalties to get back in the game, and we didn't play much rugby down in their half. I really thought we could have hung on there in the end, but unfortunately we didn't. It's really disappointing."
The visitors took the game to the home team with wonderfully cohesive play dominated by superb ball retention for 50 minutes, and the Crusaders, hindered by basic handling problems and poor lineout throwing, were left with crumbs of possession. New South Wales unleashed a positive line of attack from the outset with wave after wave of support thrusts from quickly-won rucks, and they claimed their initial reward when a well-placed inside pass from half-back Brendan McKibbin found Cam Crawford, who broke a tackle and scored in the corner. McKibbin's conversion, after an earlier penalty goal, took the visitors out to a 10-0 lead.
The Waratahs then scored a brilliant try six minutes from the end of the first half, the movement launched from a long lineout throw just outside their own quarter. Prop Sekope Kepu won the ball and fed his backs, and a reverse pass from second five-eighth Rob Horne put Michael Hooper into a gap; the flying flanker charged down field, easily rounding fullback Israel Dagg, before passing to Peter Betham on the left wing. The Crusaders looked to have Betham covered but he bounced away from tacklers and over in the corner for a superb try.
The Crusaders responded with fine build-up work of their own, the first sustained period of ball retention by them in the game. Carter took a quick penalty to be tackled just short of the line, but hooker Corey Flynn was on hand to pick the ball up and drive over to celebrate equalling Reuben Thorne's 129 appearances for the Crusaders.
The hosts needed to make a statement early in the second half, especially after restarting without No.8 and captain Kieran Read, but they made a poor start and were undone when Read's replacement, Luke Whitelock, threw a no-look pass. Dennis intercepted the ball with ease to charge into the Crusaders' 22 before unloading to Bernard Foley to score, and the Waratahs led 22-10.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder called upon his reserves, and the bench players had a major impact on the result. His side produced a lineout drive, of forwards and backs who joined in, to launch flanker Matt Todd over the line for a converted try that reduced the margin to five points before Carter landed two penalty goals to secure the win.
The Waratahs were very good but the Crusaders squeaked home (video available only in Australia)
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand with Sportal
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