Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Rampant Bulls wipe out McCaw's travel-saving try (Cullen Smith for

Monday May 7th

Even Crusaders captain Richie McCaw's last-gasp bonus point try on Friday could not prevent a gruelling trip to South Africa for the Cantabrians after the Bulls' stunning Super 14 rugby victory over the Reds.

McCaw dived over the line to score after the hooter at Jade Stadium on Friday night, taking the Crusaders to within seven points of the Chiefs for a single bonus point from the 24-30 loss and joked that he was thinking only of avoiding a trip to South Africa for a semifinal.

But a rampant Bulls side wiped away any thoughts of a possible Jade playoff for the Crusaders by blitzing the hapless Reds 92-3 in Pretoria.

With the Sharks having dispatched the Stormers 36-10 in Cape Town, both Super 14 semifinals will be held for the first time on home turf in South Africa.
The Sharks finished on top of the competition on 45 points, with the Bulls, Crusaders and Blues all tied on 42.

But the record win by the Bulls lifted them to second place on points differential and secured them a home semifinal next week against the Crusaders.
The Sharks will host the Blues in the other semifinal in Durban.

Preparing to leave for Sydney this afternoon ahead of the long haul to South Africa tomorrow, McCaw shrugged off his valiant but ultimately irrelevant travel-avoiding effort at the death on Friday night.

"I always knew after Friday's game that it was a possibility and we needed a couple of results to go our way," he said.
"We've only got ourselves to blame for leaving the door open.
"But that's history now and obviously we've got to get excited about playing next week."
McCaw said the humiliating scoreline against the Reds surprised him " a little".
"I've only seen a bit of the game but (the Bulls) were on fire and obviously desperate to get a game at home.
"We gave them all the incentive they needed by being tipped up on Friday night," he said.
"These things happen. It's a pretty tight competition and I guess we're just grateful we've got another chance next week."

McCaw pointed out that the Crusaders were the only New Zealand side to win a Super 14 match on South African soil this year.
"It could end up that to win (the title) we need to win there twice."
Crusaders coach Robbie Deans said he wasn't particularly surprised by the Bulls' massive scoreline.

"It's a cauldron that's unique, Loftus Versfeld stadium," Deans said.
"It's a famous venue and there's been some pretty remarkable games there."
Deans said the Bulls had produced "some remarkable rugby" and he'd watched "every minute of the match" this morning.

"They knew, given the Reds had nothing to play for, there was always the potential for a landslide, and that's what you saw."

Deans conceded the Crusaders had not been at their peak over the last couple of games – losing to a fired-up Brumbies outfit in Canberra and to a determined Chiefs on Friday – but he expected the players would pick themselves up for the semifinal in Pretoria on Sunday (NZ time).
"It doesn't concern us where we have to play, to be honest. It's just great to be there.
"We're really looking forward to making the most of it."

Deans said the Crusaders were taking All Blacks first five-eighth Dan Carter, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, All Blacks winger Rico Gear and prop Wyatt Crockett, with the squad to South Africa.
All three were expected to be fit to play.

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