Team work gets Crusade back on track
- Created: 21 March 2009
A magnificent team effort from the Crusaders helped them to a 17-13 victory over the Waratahs in Sydney tonight.
In front of 32,000 at ANZ Stadium, the first time Super rugby has been played there, the Crusaders had heroes across the park as they withstood the second-half sinbinning of lock Isaac Ross to deny a desperate Waratahs comeback.
The two-tries-to-one victory put the defending champions’ season back on track, the four competition points zooming them up to mid-table at the final whistle.
"That was unbelievable, a great effort from us. We needed an 80-minute performance and the boys stuck at it right to the end," captain Kieran Read said of the win over last year's finalists.
"We thought we had it over them if we played with a bit of width and our backline is working really well."
Colin Slade, playing on the left wing, was an absolute star for the Crusaders who were wearing their traditional red and black strip. Slade pulled off several incredible covering tackles – not least on the flying Wallabies wing Lote Tuqiri – and put his side on attack time and again with his bravery and skill under the high ball.
In truth, all the Crusaders backs played extremely well. Andy Ellis, back from his rib injury at halfback, marshalled things brilliantly, first-five Stephen Brett was dangerous with the ball and set up Leon MacDonald’s outstanding try, Ryan Crotty and Tim Bateman were incisive in midfield, and Adam Whitelock was solid on the right wing.
MacDonald was outstanding at fullback – his tactical kicking and experience settled the team perfectly. And as mentioned, Slade had a blinder. The first-five turned wing might be spending a bit more time in the number 11 jersey.
The forwards played extremely well too. Prop Wyatt Crockett had another strong game and locks Ross and Brad Thorn got through a lot of work. As usual, No8 Thomas Waldrom ran the ball strongly, and Read, who scored the first try, looked in top form.
The only downsides of the night were injuries but, fortunately, none were serious. Read went off midway through the second half with a sore hip. A limping George Whitelock went off just after halftime (cut thigh) and Crotty and Leon MacDonald (bruised ribs) also departed.
Tonight, though, the Crusaders will be celebrating a job well done and the victory was sorely needed. Going into the game the side had won one, drawn one and lost three.
The Waratahs started the match strongly but the Crusaders gradually got into the game and looked the more dangerous. While the New South Wales side occasionally looked dangerous in broken play – especially with fliers like Tuqiri on the wing – the backs didn’t offer much off first phase ball.
Waldrom showed up early on with his ball running and the Crusaders took the lead in the 24th minute when Read strolled over. The try was initiated by a break down the left wing by Bateman, who kicked a ‘banana’ style effort into midfield which went loose until Ellis pounced on it and sent it wide to Read, who strolled over the line unopposed.
Brett added the extras from in front and it was 7-0 to the Crusaders.
He missed a penalty from a handy angle on the left a couple of minutes later, and, with the Crusaders turning over the ball in contact, the Waratahs came back.
A run from Waratahs prop Benn Robinson put his side hot on attack and, from the ruck, Ross was penalised and sinbinned for ‘lazy running’ by referee Chris Pollock. It seemed a little harsh on the Crusaders and they paid for it when Robinson scored from a ruck close to the line. Kurtley Beale added the conversion to level the score 7-7.
It was here that the Crusaders dug deep. Slade, who had taken over the kicking duties, kicked a penalty from in front and it was 10-7 to the Crusaders.
Then Crotty pulled off a try-saving tackle on Waratahs wing Lachie Turner when fullback MacDonald was down in back play. MacDonald wasn’t out of the action for long, though, as he soon got up to score an outstanding try.
The Crusaders won the ball on their own line and Brett stepped and put Ross (who had just returned from his 10 minutes in the bin) into a gap with an inside ball. Ross sprinted upfield and passed outside to Waldrom, who popped it over to Ellis and the halfback sent MacDonald to the line.
It was a fantastic try and reminiscent of the Crusaders of old. Slade kicked the conversion and it was 17-7.
Beale narrowed the gap to 17-10 with a penalty, before Slade’s amazing try-saving tackle on Tuqiri. It turned out to be a match-winner.
New Waratahs kicker Daniel Halangahu kicked a penalty after a Thorn late tackle to make it 17-13 with about 25 minutes remaining and that was how the game would finish.
There was still plenty of drama to unfold though. The Crusaders had their chances to put the match beyond doubt – their best chance was foiled by a Waratahs knock-on intercept when 10m out. But hold on they did and it could be the turning point for the season.
Crusaders – Tries: Kieran Read, Leon MacDonald; Cons: Stephen Brett, Colin Slade; Pen: Colin Slade.
Waratahs - Tries: Benn Robinson; Con: Kurtley Beale; Pens: Kurtley Beale, Daniel Halangahu.
Halftime: Crusaders 7-0.
Bronson Murray (17. Owen Franks 48 minutes)
Kieran Read (c) (18. Michael Paterson 64 min)
George Whitelock (19. Nasi Manu 48 min)
Ryan Crotty (22. Blair Cook 76 min)
Leon MacDonald (21. Hamish Gard 72 min)
Reserves not used:
16. Dan Perrin
20. Kahn Fotuali’i