Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ton of angst for Crusaders in loss to Chiefs RICHARD KNOWLER IN NAPIER 10/03/2012

A 24-19 defeat, a one-two record and a two-week wait to erase the frustration.
Those were the numbers the Crusaders were forced to swallow in the aftermath of last night's frustrating loss to the Chiefs at McLean Park.
It may have been touted as a "home" game for the Crusaders' "Bay Boys" Israel Dagg and Zac Guildford, but another Hawke's Bay product, loosehead prop Sona Taumalolo, had the biggest reason to celebrate after scoring the decisive second try for the Chiefs late in the third quarter.
Adding to the Crusaders' angst is the prospect of having to sit through the bye before attempting to regenerate their campaign against the Cheetahs at Christchurch Stadium on March 24.
Despite Crusaders first five-eighth Tyler Bleyendaal nailing five of his six shots at goal in the slippery conditions, the Chiefs persevered in a thriller that inflicted a second loss on the Crusaders in six days.
The Crusaders made a puzzling start to their night. Although stung by the criticism that followed their second-round defeat to the Highlanders, the forwards were unable to transfer that aggression into their scrums, and this is surely an area that will be scrutinised over the next few days.
Adding to the Crusaders' angst, the five-pointer to Taumalolo, which took the Chiefs out to 21-13, was the product of an unnecessary error. A tricky 22m tap by Andy Ellis went haywire after an unsuspecting Corey Flynn knocked the ball on from a difficult pass and seconds later the Crusaders were under the sticks waiting for Aaron Cruden's conversion.
You always know when Taumalolo is enjoying his work and he had a ball; the Tongan international is often heard chirping at his opponents and when he scored he roared.
And it was no surprise that the hot whistle of referee Garrick Williamson led to Liam Messam's try in the first half. Having profited from tighthead prop Owen Franks being penalised at a scrum – Williamson was harsh on the Crusaders' set-piece from the get-go – the Chiefs won the following lineout, Sonny Bill Williams bashed his way into the teeth of the defence and moments later his forwards were driving into the corner with loosie Messam profiting.
The vigilance of Williamson aside, and at times loosehead prop Ben Franks looked as if he could have cheerfully tossed the ref's whistle over the grandstand, there was little doubt the Chiefs shaded the Crusaders in that set-piece.
Their pride pricked and down 3-13, the Crusaders shook off their doubts later in the first half and had it not been for a desperate hand-flick by Messam a try seemed likely for Read. Having tracked Ellis down a narrow blindside, Read appeared set to score but the transfer was batted away by his opposite.
Ellis could feel miffed he was denied a unique try when Williamson wrongly ruled him offside at a scrum. Having cleverly scooped the ball out of Tawera Kerr-Barlow's hand with his boot, he sucked in the ball and dived for the line before being penalised.
When centre Robbie Fruean put his lot on the board for the Crusaders the relief was almost palpable after 48 minutes of frustration. Ultimately, it was not enough.
Chiefs 24 (Liam Messam, Sona Taumalolo tries; Aaron Cruden con, 4 pen) Crusaders 19(Robbie Fruean try; Tyler Bleyendaal con, 4 pens) HT: 6-16

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