Monday, February 20, 2012

Crusaders come back to down Rebels

The seven-time champions fought back from a 7-14 halftime deficit to eventually run out 19-14 winners against a determined Melbourne Rebels team at AAMI Park last night.

The Crusaders, missing Richie McCaw and Dan Carter but still fielding six World Cup winning All Blacks, were met with an enthusiastic and vibrant Rebels team spearheaded by the dancing feet of new recruit James O’Connor.

The high profile signing scored a brilliant try, his maiden score for the Victorian franchise, just moments after he had set up number eight Gareth Delve.

O’Connor and Kurtley Beale are the two glamour recruits for the Rebels, but the latter missed action last night as he injured his hamstring during training.

His non selection was said to be precautionary, and the same measures were applied to former Force wonder kid O’Connor, who left the field early in the second half and was seen applying ice to his left leg.

Both are expected to be fit for their first match of the season against the Waratahs.

The Crusaders will be happy with the hit out, with Israel Dagg and Tyler Bleyendaal impressing, while the efforts of tireless captain Kieran Read were prominent.

There would have been some surprise as to how well the Rebels scrum coped with what was generally regarded to be the most powerful set piece in Super Rugby last season, with the Melbourne based team clearly working in the off season on their first phase and defence.

Dagg notched a double while centre Adam Whitelock scored the match winner early in the second half, with the Crusaders classically upping the ante during the back end of the match to shut out the Rebels.

Rebels coach Damien Hill said his team needed to be more mindful of converting opportunities to points, something that outfits like the Crusaders do if given half a chance.

"The effort was there from the start to the finish and we got to trial 30-odd players in that game and it was good to see a few guys who stood up so we'll get a lot from that," he said.

"The lineout was reasonable, the defence was strong and we really made them work for their points.

"The major disappointment was the opportunities we made for ourselves, we weren't able to capitalise and that's something this team needs to learn." 

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