Jordan Taufua scored a 79th-minute try as the Crusaders ground out a 20-19 win over the Force in Perth on Friday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
There's just no stopping New Zealand sides once they hit their stride. The Crusaders completed a perfect three-match tour with wins over the Sharks and Lions in South Africa before making the trip back to Australia, where they finished off the excursion with closer-than-expected triumph.
It wasn't a classic match, it seldom is when an Australian team is involved. There was a plethora of handling errors on both sides with referee Ben O'Keeffe all too happy to honour his whistling duties in a stop-start affair.
Peter Grant kept the Force in the match with four successful attempts at goal, but in the end the Saders had too much quality in their ranks and got the job done.
Scrumhalf Mitchell Drummond opened the scoring as early as the fifth minute for the visitors, but his halfback partner Richie Mo'unga hooked the conversion. He did make amends for the earlier miss when he added a penalty either side of Grant's first two kicks at goal to give the Crusaders a slender two-point advantage.
Johnny McNicholl, who was in superb form against the Lions at Ellis Park, then finished off a good team effort after a long sequence of play to put some breathing space between the teams at the change-over.
The second half belonged to the Force, who started brightly after the restart. They made all the play and pinned the Crusaders back in their own territory. That forced the visitors to infringe at the breakdown and the reliable Grant was on hand to add two quick-fire penalties which cut the lead to 13-12.
South African-born scrumhalf Ryan Louwrens then scored a crucial try after a series of offloads to put the Force in the lead for the first time, with Grant nailing the conversion.
The Crusaders looked dead and buried at that stage. They tried hard to overturn the deficit, but just made error after error. Until the final few minutes, when the Force defence just couldn't hold out under the pressure any longer and Taufua wriggled over for the score to make it a one-point game. Mo'unga succeeded with his first conversion of the match to turn the result in the Crusaders' favour.
Force – Try: Ryan Louwrens. Conversion: Peter Grant. Penalties: Grant (4).
Crusaders – Tries: Mitchell Drummond, Johnny McNicholl, Jordan Taufau. Conversion Richie Mo'unga. Penalty: Mo'unga.
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Solomoni Rasolea, 11 Semisi Masirewa, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sitiveni Mafi, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Heath Tessman, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Subs: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Rory Walton, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Ian Prior, 23 Albert Nikoro.
Crusaders – 15 Ben Volavola, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Sean Wainui, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Mike Alaalatoa, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Jimmy Tupou, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 Kieron Fonotia, 23 Jone Macilai.
Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images