Saturday, February 14, 2009

Crusaders stay calm to show Chiefs who's boss

Another Crusade is under way again in correct fashion with Todd Blackadder's red and balcks opening the new era with a hard fought win over the Chiefs in their Super 14 clash in Christchurch on Saturday evening.

It seems the more things change the more they stay the same for the Crusaders, the reigning champions.

They opened their title defence with a new coach and minus a raft of experienced players now plying their trade elsewhere.

But the departure of time-time coach Robbie Deans was barely felt as his successor, Blackadder, enjoyed a grafting 19-13 success at home.

The Crusaders were in anything but vintage form, though, a litany of loose passes and handling errors ensuring this contest never rose to memorable heights.

It took some typically determined Crusaders resolve to get them home in the final quarter, too, after Chiefs winger Lelia Masaga used his renowned pace to sprint around fullback Leon Macdonald for a 61st-minute try which lifted his team to within one point of the hosts.
The Crusaders spent the next seven minute camped inside Chiefs territory, applying pressure when they could and patiently awaiting an opening.

It did not come, as the Chiefs stormed downfield on a counter-attack, forcing a 5m scrum when Macdonald was gang-tackled over his own line.
But the Crusaders held firm and returned the favour, forcing a 5m scrum at the other end before counting down the clock in clinical fashion.

Their patience was rewarded on the stroke of fulltime when centre Casey Laulala scored his second try of the match, stepping inside one tackler before sneaking between two others to find the line.
The first spell was filled with errors from both sides, while the scrum was a constant source of irritation as both packs infringed on a regular basis.

Between all the whistle the Crusaders found time for first-half tries to Laulala, following a delicate chip ahead by first five-eighth Colin Slade, and winger Tim Bateman, who scooped up a loose ball on halfway and outpaced his chasers.
The Chiefs' sole try in the spell was somewhat fortunate, coming after an ill-directed kicked ahead from first-five Stephen Donald.

The ball screwed off the side of his boot but fortuitously bounced into the hands Masaga, who hared 50m downfield before offloading in the tackle for centre Richard Kahui to score.
Crusaders captain Richie McCaw was content with the result, but acknowledged his team were well below their best.

"Obviously, being the first game of the season, you don't expect to be perfect," he told Sky Sport.
"There were times we had them under pressure and perhaps our mistakes let them off but perhaps they felt the same. There were a lot of positives there for us and stuff that I guess you always have to work on."

Crusaders 19: Casey Laulala 2, Tim Bateman tries; Colin Slade 2 con
Chiefs 13: Richard Kahui, Lelia Masaga tries; Stephen Donald pen.
HT: 14-5.
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