Rugby: Crusaders return with rousing win - Sport - NZ Herald News
Friday Mar 4, 2011
The Crusaders put aside 10 days of destruction and despair to mark their Super 15 rugby return by beating the Waratahs 33-18 in Nelson tonight.
It was their first appearance since a 6.3-magnitude earthquake violently shook Christchurch on February 22, leaving more than 160 people dead, the city's infrastructure wrecked and their home venue unusable for the foreseeable future.
With last week's match against the Hurricanes cancelled, the Crusaders had been cooling their heels for close to a fortnight, and the rustiness showed in the early exchanges at Trafalgar Park in front of a capacity 11,000-strong crowd.
The Waratahs had everything go their way as they forged a 13-6 lead on the back of tries to second five-eighth Tom Carter and halfback Luke Burgess, the latter a sweeping counter attack after Burgess himself forced a turnover on his own side of halfway.
The Waratahs had arrived in Nelson fancying their chances after two good wins but they produced their best early and were thereafter outplayed by a side highly motivated and determined to do their supporters proud.
While their scrum was superior through and first five-eighth Daniel Carter had an impeccable match with the boot as he landed seven from seven for 18 points, the Crusaders turned the match on its head in a 10-minute spell leading up to halftime when they scored 20 points.
The passes suddenly stuck and gaps appeared as the Crusaders clicked into gear with a brace of tries to big centre Robbie Fruean in the space of 3min.
His first was a miraculous effort as he intercepted the ball near halfway with one hand and with his back to the tryline, before pirouetting 180 degrees and taking off.
Fruean was in again shortly after when a cleverly weighted pass from second five-eighth Sonny Bill Williams gave him just enough space down the left-hand touchline before he used his strength to wrestle his way to the ground in the tackle of fullback Kurtley Beale.
Williams began scratchily in his Super rugby debut, with his first three passes going to ground, but like his teammates he warmed to his work as the first half progressed then hit his straps 2min after the restart by stepping inside and out en route to the tryline to extend his team's lead to 33-13.
The game lost its shape after that, with both teams making substitutions, and it was the fresh legs of New South Wales' Afa Pakalani which enabled him to score his team's third try 7min from fulltime.
Trafalgar Park was dripping with emotion in the minutes leading up to kickoff.
The Crusaders played in the red and white hooped jerseys of franchise partners West Coast, as a tribute to the 29 men who lost their lives in the Pike River mining explosion near Greymouth last November.
The crowd and players stood in a minute's silence in honour of the victims of both that tragedy and last week's earthquake.
Crusaders 33 (Robbie Fruean 2, Sonny Bill Williams tries; Dan Carter 4 pen, 3 con) Waratahs 18 (Tom Carter, Luke Burgess, Afa Pakalani tries; Kurtley Beale pen).