Saturday Apr 17, 2010
A re-jigged Crusaders outfit proved too strong for the Cheetahs, cruising to a seven-try 45-6 win in their Super 14 rugby match in Christchurch tonight.
Missing star pivot Dan Carter through a hip injury, halfback Andy Ellis (concussion) and with winger Zac Guildford on the bench, the Crusaders hardly missed a beat as they strolled to a 26-6 halftime lead.
Four first-half tries secured the bonus point early for the Crusaders, after elusive halfback Kahn Fotuali'i opened the scoring in the 10th minute with a jinking 40m run which caught the Cheetahs defence napping.
The South Africans stayed in touch through a Riaan Viljoen penalty, but the Crusaders' impressive scrum, ball retention and willingness to move the ball wide stretched the South Africans constantly.
The Crusaders forward pack also had a fresh look about it, Ben Franks starting at tighthead prop ahead of brother Owen, while Sam Whitelock succeeded All Black Brad Thorn at lock, and All Blacks captain Richie McCaw returned to more familiar territory on the openside flank.
No 8 Thomas Waldrom celebrated his return to the starting line-up after an ankle sprain with a two-try haul, both coming in the last five minutes before halftime on the back of some superb Crusaders forward play.
Afterwards, McCaw paid tribute to the work done by the Crusaders scrum.
``As the game wore on we had the potential to loosen up but the guys stuck to the task, did the little jobs well and in the second half we played some pretty good rugby,' he told Sky Sport.
``Set pieces are a pretty key area these days, and that set the standard for the whole game.'
The Cheetahs came out with renewed vigour in the second spell, winger Jongi Nokwe looking dangerous on the rare occasions he managed to find himself in space with ball in hand.
The South Africans attacked the Crusaders line in the closing minutes, but could find no way through their well-organised defence, and faced the constant threat of a counter-attack as the Crusaders ran with pace and confidence.
Second-half tries to Sean Maitland, Ben Franks and replacement wing Guildford set the seal on a comprehensive win.
Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske had named a young side with a raft of changes and a new halves combination after last week's 15-61 hiding to the Brumbies in Canberra, but they never looked capable of challenging the Crusaders as they eased to their seventh win of the Super 14 season.
The Crusaders now face a difficult three weeks on the road, with games against the Force in Perth, the Stormers in Cape Town and the Bulls in Pretoria.
Crusaders 45 (Thomas Waldrom 2, Kahn Fotuali'i, Ryan Crotty, Sean Maitland, Ben Franks, Zac Guildford tries; Colin Slade 5 con)
Cheetahs 6 (Riaan Viljoen, Meyer Bosman pen).