Crusaders make it hard for Sharks
Sat, 12 Jul 2014 09:11
The Crusaders made an emphatic claim for a home semifinal in the competition with a bonus-point 34-8 victory over the Highlanders.
The Crusaders made an emphatic claim for a home semifinal in the competition with a bonus-point 34-8 victory over the Highlanders in their final pool match on Saturday.
The Highlanders, although guaranteed a play-off spot, did not look up for this game. On the other hand the Crusaders looked rampant in their quest for second place and a home semifinal.
With the table-topping Waratahs already assured of one semifinal, it will take a Herculean effort by the Sharks to deny the Crusaders the second berth.
The Sharks will need to beat the Stormers by a 35-point margin and pick up a bonus point in the final match of the regular season if they are to sneak into second place.
The Crusaders, seven-time Super champions, led the Highlanders 17-3 at half-time, scoring their first try just ahead of the break, before adding three more for their bonus point in the second half.
The Highlanders struggled to find their way with their talismanic captain Ben Smith sidelined by a leg infection.
They were punished for repeated indiscretions from which Dan Carter landed four penalties to give the Crusaders a handy lead in the first half before they began exchanging penalties for tries.
Matt Todd scored the first two and Corey Flynn the fourth from lineout drives when the Crusaders turned down handy shots at goal and kicked for the corner.
The third try came when scrumhalf Andy Ellis tapped and ran when the Crusaders had a close-range penalty and resulted in Nemani Nadolo scoring wide out.
The Crusaders forwards dominated throughout the match with their scrum and lineout both a class above what the Highlanders could muster, and the home side benefitted from five steals against the throw.
After beating the Auckland Blues two weeks ago, Crusaders centre Ryan Crotty said they were building nicely for the final.
"We've had a couple of good wins over the Blues and the Highlanders and it gives us momentum going into the finals. It's been a good couple of weeks."
While the Highlanders have qualified for the play-offs for the first time in 12 years, the Crusaders have reached the knock-out stage for the 13th consecutive year.
Man of the Match: For the Highlanders, Malakai Fekitoa tried his best to get his team over the advantage line, Manu was prevelent but not as effective as he has been. For the Crusaders Carter brought some of his class acting like a second flyhalf at No.12, Dagg looked more threatning but over all it was the class of captain Kieran Read that really shone through.
Tries: Todd 2, Nadolo, Flynn
Pens: Carter 4
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Kieron Fonotia, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Luke Whitelock, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Johnny McNicholl.
Highlanders: 15 Trent Renata, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (captain), 7 Shane Christie, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 JP Koen, 19 Josh Bekhuis, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Phil Burleigh.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
TMO: Chris Watt (New Zealand)