Crusaders battle past Waratahs
April 10, 2010
The Waratahs' Kurtley Beale is tackled by the Crusaders' Dan Carter during their bruising encounter in Christchurch
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The Crusaders maintained their push for the Super 14 semi-finals with a hard-fought 20-13 victory over title rivals the Waratahs at the AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
In a real war of attrition, a second half try from scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i proved to be the pivotal score for the Crusaders with fly-half Dan Carter weighing in with 15 points to steer his side home and in the process become the leading all-time points scorer in Super Rugby. Penalties from fly-half Daniel Halangahu and centre Berrick Barnes kept the Waratahs in touch in the opening period and a second half try from centre Rob Horne, converted by his No.10, gave the visitors the lead but they were unable to withstand a late rally from the hosts.
An enterprising start from the Waratahs stretched the Crusaders early on and the visitors opted to kick to the corner with an early penalty but they failed to secure the ball at the lineout and the chance was gone. Offered a similar opportunity a few minutes later the Crusaders wasted no time in pointing at the posts and Carter duly kicked the penalty.
The Crusaders fly-half created the next opportunity for himself with an incisive break deep into Waratahs' territory but he was guilty of a rare error in judgement when opting to chip ahead instead of keeping the ball in hand.
The Waratahs stuck to their attacking policy and rarely put boot to ball but when Crusaders prop Wyatt Crockett was penalised for coming in from the side in the shadow of his own posts, Halangahu opted for a kick at goal. But his ugly-looking kick went wide of the posts. A lapse in concentration at the restart gifted the Crusaders an opportunity to double their lead but Carter's kick was also off-target.
The home side had more success with the ball in hand with Keiran Read surging into the Waratahs' 22 before the ball was worked wide to Richie McCaw who powered over but was stripped of the ball in the process by Waratahs flanker Phil Waugh with a superb try-saving tackle.
Another strong run from Read, this time off the back of a scrum, drew a penalty from the Waratahs midway through the half but Carter failed again with the boot - hitting the left upright.
Waratahs fullback Kurtley Beale then injected some pace into an attack and kept the Crusaders guessing before finding Drew Mitchell with the pass. The Waratahs forced an error from the home side at the resulting lineout but they could not capitalise on the excellent field position with the Crusaders' scrum exerting significant pressure at the set-piece. The Waratahs' scrum gained some revenge on the half hour and Halangahu opened his account with the penalty to level the scores.
A penalty against Waratahs prop Al Baxter for going off his feet allowed Carter to restore his side's lead two minutes before the break but the Waratahs struck back almost immediately when centre Berrick Barnes was hammered by Crusaders scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i who was sin-binned for the dangerous tackle. Barnes dusted himself off before stepping up to level the scores once again before the sides headed to the tunnel.
The Waratahs began the second half brightly with Beale and Barnes taking the visitors close but desperate defence from the Crusaders, with Crockett at its heart, snuffed out the danger. Some indiscipline from the Waratahs' Wycliff Palu, throwing the ball away after a call went against his side, then took the Crusaders into penalty range and Carter made them pay with the subsequent kick. Barnes had the chance to level the scores soon after but he could only hit the woodwork.
A high tackle from the Crusaders' Brad Thorn saw the Waratahs kick to the corner for the lineout which coincided with the return of Fotuali'i. The visitors secured the ball at the lineout and then orchestrated a multi-phase drive with Mitchell going close to the line. After almost 30 phases the Crusaders' line was eventually breached with a dab through from Halangahu pounced upon by Horne for the opening try of the game. Halangahu nailed the difficult conversion from the touchline to put his side in control.
The Crusaders rallied strongly with Fotuali'i leading the charge with a smart break and when Beale was harshly penalised at the breakdown Carter was able reduce the arrears with his fourth penalty.
The Crusaders continued to ask question of the Waratahs' defence and were rewarded with their endeavours with Carter's fifth penalty edging his side ahead once more. Beale looked to have snaffled a game-breaking interception a couple of minutes later but he was judged to be off-side and the Crusaders responded by turning the screw against a tiring but resolute Waratahs defence. The pressure finally took its toll on the visitors with Fotuali'i burrowing his way over from close range.
Carter pushed his conversion wide of the posts that meant gave the Waratahs hope of escaping with a losing bonus point but they were denied by the record-breaking Carter who slotted a last minute penalty.
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum.