Crusaders overrun Bulls in Christchurch
March 16, 2013
Robbie Fruean produced a powerful performance after a patchy opening quarter
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Dan Carter Wyatt Crockett Robbie Fruean Willi Heinz Johnny McNicholl Tom Marshall Kieran Read Deon Stegmann Morne Steyn
The Crusaders breathed life into their Super Rugby campaign, defeating the previously unbeaten Bulls to register their first win of the season in their first game of the year in Christchurch after back-to-back away losses to the Blues and the Hurricanes.
The hosts scored three tries in each half, but ultimately they won the contest with a five-minute burst midway through the first stanza in which they scored two tries to cap multiple-phase passages of play after cruelling themselves previously with handling errors that had halted momentum.
Robbie Fruean, one of the players previously guilty of spilling easy possession, scored the opening try after Daniel Carter and Morne Steyn had swapped penalty goals in the opening quarter, the centre finding the stripe after 11 phases iced when Israel Dagg freed an arm while held up to offload to Carter, who gave the final pass.
Kieran Read almost immediately rumbled over one-out from a maul after another spell of sustained pressure, the Crusaders captain showing great strength and presence of mind to free an arm and dot the ball while on his back at the bottom of a maul driven over the try line.
The Bulls worked themselves back into the game through the boot of Steyn, the fly-half kicking goals after the hosts were penalised twice for offside at the ruck, but the Crusaders extended their advantage with a wonderful try after the bell at the end of the first half. The Crusaders put together 17 phases in more than two-and-a-half minutes of possession, moving the ball left and right to stretch the Bulls' defence past breaking point before Carter gifted winger Johnny McNicholl a free run over the stripe for a converted try.
"That first half probably showed our intent," Read said after the match. "We probably didn't look up to the board as much as we needed to, but the effort there was great and then we finished off at the end of that first half. That 10 minutes before and after half-time is important, and we set a standard there. It was nice to increase our lead and put a bit of pressure on them."
Read said the players had not been concerned after their early mistakes.
"We just weren't quite there, but certainly the intent was great and we showed when we got it right we can be really dangerous."
The Crusaders looked as if they can win an eighth Super Rugby title
The Bulls were first to score in the second half, claiming hope with another goal after George Whitelock was penalised for not releasing the ball carrier, and jangling Crusaders nerves as they had lost to the Hurricanes in the previous week despite topping the try count, but the hosts put the game to bed almost immediately with their bonus-point fourth try.
Whitelock reefed the ball from Wynand Olivier in a maul, and the Crusaders took maximum advantage from the turnover two phases later when Tom Marshall isolated Juandre Kruger in the defensive line; the winger easily ran around the second-rower and then ran through a tackle from Zane Kirchner.
The Crusaders scored again with 20 minutes to play, Wyatt Crockett rumbling over to gain full reward from both a great turnover secured by Luke Whitelock and another searing break from Marshall.
Deon Stegmann gained a consolation try for the visitors, scoring from a rolling maul after talking an attacking lineout, Steyn landing the conversion to maintain his 100% record with the boot.
Crusaders replacement scrum-half Willi Heinz rounded out the scoring with a converted try that demonstrated the strength of the home bench as Adam and Luke Whitelock were also involved heavily in the multiple phases.
Bulls captain Pierre Spies paid tribute to the Crusaders, saying: "They were on song tonight and obviously very desperate to win ... we couldn't get going and they kept us out of our game. In the lineouts they were very good. The scrums they also put us under pressure. Also, we couldn't get out of our half. We kept playing in our own half and you can't build any proper momentum so credit to them for that."
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