Crusaders put Sharks to the sword
July 26, 2014
The Crusaders' Kieran Read and Andy Ellis celebrate the back-rower's try
© Getty Images
The Crusaders will contest their 11th Super Rugby final after producing a thoroughly professional performance to defeat the Sharks in the first semi-final at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
The seven-time champions opened the scoring with a second-minute penalty from Dan Carter, and they were never threatened thereafter by a subdued Sharks team undone by a number of fundamental errors, poor execution and poor tactical kicks.
One of those fundamental errors - a poor attempted clearing kick by Cobus Reinach that landed midfield in their own half - led directly to the opening try of the game, the Crusaders capitalising as Nemani Nadolo made a bust before Kieran Read cantered across the line untouched.
Carter converted and kept the scoreboard ticking over with two more penalty kicks before Nadolo scored the second try shortly after half-time. Andy Ellis took a quick tap penalty and fed a short ball to Carter, who burst through a gap before putting the hulking winger into space to sprint clear.
Crusaders 38-6 Sharks (Australia only)
Richie McCaw celebrates victory © Getty Images
Willi Heinz, on the field just 10 minutes as a replacement for Ellis, scored the third try after the ball popped out of a Sharks scrum that was back-pedalling, and replacement winger Johnny McNicholl, on for Kieron Fonotia, claimed the fourth try, after a period of Sharks pressure, capping a brilliant counter-attack launched by Colin Slade with a dynamic run after collecting a poor midfield bomb.
Lambie kicked two penalties for the Sharks, but also missed two kickable attempts, including one a minute before half-time that would have brought the visitors back within a converted try. Those misses summed up the visitors' disappointing performance, with which they never vaguely threatened to repeat their historic drought-breaking victory in Christchurch two months before, and their embarrassment was completed when Matt Todd scored his third try of the season after the forwards had driven a maul over the Sharks from a five-metre lineout.
Read said the win was "extremely satisfying, and knowing we're going to the big stage next week is an awesome feeling".
"I'm really pleased with that performance out there," Read said. "We started really well, and put them under a little pressure early. We played up-tempo early, which probably set the scene."
The Crusaders captain paid tribute to the pack, saying "we knew [the set-piece] was where the game was going to be won and lost, and [the Sharks] were outstanding last week".
Sharks captain Bismarck du Plessis said "we were extremely disappointed with our performance".
"We couldn't catch a high ball tonight. We just couldn't do what we worked on this week."
Kieran Read was strong throughout, but he was particularly dynamic in the opening half-hour © Getty Images
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