Thursday, May 20, 2010

Crusaders supreme in run to semis
Saturday May 15, 2010

Former champions rediscover form as Brumbies falter in battle for semi spot

Crusaders 40
Brumbies 22

The seven-time champion Crusaders will shoot for another Super rugby title after rediscovering their mojo last night on their favoured home patch.
The hosts snapped a disconcerting three-game losing streak with a classy performance against a Brumbies side who offered a searching test in every area except the scrum.
Victory confirmed the Crusaders as semifinalists for the ninth straight year but that venue will not be decided until the final game in the competition when the Stormers meet the Bulls on Sunday.
The match began in mild conditions but deteriorated into fog although there was nothing blurry about the Crusaders. They were sharp, concentrated and had an attacking mood which marked their near win last week against the Bulls.
This time there was little doubt about the result once the Crusaders opened their attacking throttle and showed a range of skills, class and intelligence few teams in this competition can match.

From Ben Franks in the No 1 jersey to Colin Slade at 15, they were sharp, composed and in the form any of the sides spawned by this famous franchise would have admired.
In the first three minutes the Crusaders were awarded penalties for offside and the Brumbies dropping a scrum but Daniel Carter dragged both attempts from the same 35m range wide of the woodwork.
The Brumbies then got into the game dominating territory with sweeping team combinations as they worked deep into Crusaders' territory where they shunned a penalty kick for a lineout move which broke down.
After that reprieve the Crusaders began a brilliant counter-attack with Zac Guildford's pace and midfield incision the key before he flung a pass wide to captain Richie McCaw who kept the move purring for Sean Maitland to crash across the line.
The hosts had complete control against the Brumbies' scrum with their test front row and suggested they were about to tear the game apart. That inkling disappeared as Tyrone Smith intercepted Daniel Bowden's pass and sauntered away for a converted try.
Just as quickly that 7-all deadlock was snapped with No 8 Kieran Read an influential figure while his side claimed two classic tries in front of a 28,000 crowd.
It was an outstanding start from the Crusaders.
The Brumbies returned with greater fire and precision and prop Ben Alexander's try equalled the best the Crusaders had scored. The Brumbies swept possession across the field and through many hands to send the frontrower to the line.
That momentum swing was dented when halfback Josh Valentine lost control and was penalised for stomping. Carter kicked to the corner and from a drive, McCaw was shunted across for the bonus point touchdown.
Order was restored, the Crusaders were back on track and on their way to the playoffs.

Crusaders 40 (S Maitland, K Read, O Franks, R McCaw, C Slade, tries; D Carter 3 con, 3 pen)
Brumbies 22 (T Smith, B Alexander, H Edmonds, tries; M Giteau 2 con, pen)
Halftime: 22-10

By Wynne Gray

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