The Crusaders produced a clinical all-round performance to claim a comfortable 40-10 quarter-final win over the Sharks in Christchurch on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The indomitable Crusaders continue to cruise on in this competition. The reigning champs have now won 13 games in succession, and look well on track for what would be a ninth Super Rugby title.
Although the Sharks battled gallantly for periods of this clash, they produced far too many elementary errors against a Crusaders team who were clearly a class apart as they led from start to finish to book a semi-final date against the Hurricanes.
Coming into this clash with the odds stacked against them, the Sharks would have known that they needed all elements of their game to operate at their optimum to stand any chance of causing an upset.
Instead, within the opening quarter, the visitors conceded a scrum penalty, missed a shot at goal, struggled to protect possession and lost a lineout that led to a Crusaders try.
The upshot was that the Saders opened up a handy 13-0 lead through tries to Bryn Hall and David Havili, although the Sharks did find a way to hit back when Kobus van Wyk finished off a well-worked try in the 26th minute.
That score finally seemed to settle the Sharks’ nerves as they began to execute some higher-percentage play, while strong defensive work served to halt the Crusaders’ momentum at the gainline.
Just before the break, Richie Mo’unga knocked over a penalty to hand the hosts a nine-point advantage, but considering the start that the Sharks had made to the encounter, it’s a deficit that they would have quite happily taken at half-time.
However, as the lethal Crusaders so often do, they struck just after the restart as Matt Todd powered over the tryline to continue building scoreboard pressure.
Rob du Preez and Mo’unga then traded penalties as the Sharks continued to fight a losing battle, but the result was finally sealed when Crusaders substitute Braydon Ennor scored a superb try in the 67th minute, while Pete Samu piled on the punishment with another five-pointer soon after.
Crusaders – Tries: Bryn Hall, David Havili, Matt Todd, Braydon Ennor, Pete Samu. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (3). Penalties: Richie Mo’unga (3).
Sharks – Try: Kobus van Wyk. Conversion: Rob du Preez. Penalty: Du Preez.
Crusaders – 15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Tim Perry.
Subs: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor.
Sharks – 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha (c), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Wian Vosloo, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Makazole Mapimpi.
Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images