VIDEO: Force rob Crusaders of crucial bonus point
SUPER RUGBY TRANS-TASMAN REPORT: The decision to rest a raft of their frontline players could come back to haunt the Crusaders.
The multiple Super Rugby champions overcome the Western Force 29-21 win in Christchurch on Friday.
Despite their solid defensive display, the reigning Super Rugby Aotearoa champions were robbed of a bonus point victory in the final play of the game, as the Western Australians unleashed a rapid counter-attack to allow Jordan Olowofela to score on the stroke of full-time.
As a result, the Crusaders were robbed of a bonus point that could prove costly with just one more week to play in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman before the June 19 Final.
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The Crusaders scored five tries to three against a much-improved Force, who refused to give up and were rewarded with the Olowofela try.
“It’s been a bit of a theme in the last couple of games leaking late points and that one really hurts, especially when it’s tight at the top of the table,” Crusaders skipper Scott Barrett said.
“We were aware of what the Force was going to bring – niggle, some stuff at the breakdown – they certainly challenged us and probably stopped a bit of our flow.”
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The Crusaders rested a number of top stars including Richie Mo’unga, Sam Whitelock and Sevu Reece, meaning they lacked some of their usual attacking fluency.
The Force took the lead after three minutes when Toni Puli burst down the wing and sidestepped the Crusaders defence for a try.
Manasa Mataele hit back for the Crusaders, scoring off a perfectly weighted grubber kick from Braydon Ennor.
Fullback Will Jordan gave the hosts the lead after some slick passing from the Crusaders backline and Whetu Douglas added a third from a lineout drive to make it 17-7.
Ollie Callan kept the Force in touch, as the visitors patiently worked the ball through 10 phases, but the Crusaders scored a fourth through Sione Havili Talitui to make it 24-14 at the break.
Jordan notched his second shortly after the restart before a sustained period of Force pressure tested the Crusaders’ defence.
The West Australians scuffed a number of chances, but Olowofela broke through late to deny the bonus point.
Man of the match: The Crusaders won and as a collective, they were the better team. Players like David Havili, Manasa Mataele and two-try hero Will Jordan certainly put up their hands. The Western Force had some gladiators of their own – hard-working forwards like Fergus Lee-Warner and Jeremy Thrush. There was also the try-scoring flyer Toni Pulu. Our award goes to Western Force captain and centre Kyle Godwin, who epitomised the never-say-die attitude of the West Australians.
For the Crusaders
Tries: Mataele, Jordan 2, Douglas, Talitui
Cons: Burke 2
For the Western Force
Tries: Pulu, Callan, Olowofela
Cons: Miotti 2, Prior
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Manasa Mataele, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 David Havili, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Fergus Burke, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Sione Havili Talitui, 6 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Tamaiti Williams.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Isileli Tu’ungafasi, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Tom Sanders, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Dallas McLeod, 23 Josh McKay.
Western Force: 15 Jake Strachan, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin (captain), 11 Richard Kahui, 10 Domingo Miotti, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Ollie Callan, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Angus Warner, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Tim Anstee, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Jack McGregor, 23 Jordan Olowofela.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referees: James Doleman, Brendon Pickerill
TMO: Chris Hart