Saturday, March 28, 2009

Crusaders cling on for scrappy win
NZPA - March 28, 2009, 9:34 pm

The execution didn't match the purpose but the Crusaders did enough to beat the Stormers 11-7 in a scrappy Super 14 rugby match in Christchurch tonight.

After dominating for large periods, the Crusaders walked off AMI Stadium relieved to have snared victory over South African opponents who defended with desperation and could easily have snuck a late win rather than snare just a bonus point.

On a clear but dewy night, both sides suffered from a high error count, preventing the scoreline from reflecting the intent that both sides had to attack.

The Crusaders were particularly keen to keep the ball in hand and often played with excellent continuity before spilling a pass or losing possession at the tackle.

After going four games without a win, the defending champion Crusaders have now won two on the trot and are slowly starting to resemble the side who have dominated the competition for several years.

Their defence remains impeccable while rust is slowly disappearing from their attacking game.
While they are still struggling to fill the gaps left by player departure and injuries, coach Todd Blackadder has them playing with speed and vigour.

Coming off the bye, the Stormers lacked the possession and space needed to come close to matching their 56-18 last-start defeat of the Lions two weeks ago.

They were marshalled superbly by captain and centre Jean de Villiers, who fought a lively duel with Crusaders opposite Casey Laulala, while No 8 Luke Watson proved hard to lower and the Stromers pack was muscular at the breakdown.

A try to Crusaders winger Adam Whitelock in the right corner seven minutes from halftime gave his team the lead for the first time and proved decisive, with a second penalty from teammate Stephen Brett late in the game the only other points of the match.

The try came via a superb team attack that had all the continuity hallmarks of the Crusaders of old.

Watson spun and bust through four tackles to score the Stormers try in the 10th minute somewhat against the run of play.

Brett landed a penalty and was a key figure as the Crusaders played with width in the leadup to Whitelock's try.

Lock Isaac Ross dynamic around the park for the Crusaders while loose forwards Kieran Read and Thomas Waldrom were all industry.

They next host the Bulls on Friday while the Stormers play the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney.

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