AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Crusaders 23 – 22 HSBC Waratahs
Super Rugby Round 16
After the HSBC Waratahs produced their best 40 minutes of rugby to score three tries in 25 minutes, a second-half Crusaders fightback has put NSW to the sword and deprived them of a historic Christchurch victory.
Impressive from the start, first half tries to wingers Cam Crawford and Peter Betham and an early second period effort from form flyhalf Bernard Foley gave NSW a well-deserved 22-10 lead after 45 minutes. But a converted try and two Dan Carter penalties saw the Crusaders sneak a one-point lead in the final minutes and a missed NSW penalty attempt allowed them to hold on for the narrowest of victories.
His disappointment clearly evident after the game, captain Dave Dennis praised his side’s efforts, saying, “We’ve not won here in a while and that’s the best chance we’ve given ourselves. I think the attitude and the effort tonight was really good and I’m proud of the boys for that.
“We talked about that in the week. We were disappointed with last week but came here tonight and did everything we could. We were one kick short.”
With the Crusaders unbeaten against the HSBC Waratahs since 2004, Dennis added, “It was never going to be easy, we knew had to work hard in that second half. Our discipline probably let us down a little bit, they kicked a few penalties and got back in the game and we didn’t play much rugby down in their half. It was hard but I really thought we could have hung on there in the end but unfortunately we didn’t. We’ve got two games to go now and we’ve just got to keep working hard.”
An early penalty from scrumhalf Brendan McKibbin gave them the lead on six minutes and started what was to be an excellent half for the visitors. After enjoying close to 70 per cent of the first quarter possession, their aggressive defence and strong continuity in attack was rewarded when winger Cam Crawford crossed for the first try of the game shortly after the 20 minute mark. McKibbin’s conversion briefly extended his side’s lead to 10-0, before flyhalf Dan Carter got the home side on to the scoreboard with a 23rd minute penalty.
Carter had the chance to further close the gap four minutes later but his long-range effort drifted left of the posts, opening the door for the NSW offensive to continue. And continue it did, with a perfectly executed lineout play sending Michael Hooper clean through the Crusaders’ midfield defence and allowing the flanker to show his pace, going around Israel Dagg before offloading to Peter Betham for the winger to wrestle his way out of a double tackle and dive over in the left-hand corner.
McKibbin went close with the touchline conversion but in an attempt to salvage something from the first half, the Crusaders surged, earning a penalty on the NSW line and battering the defence in a desperate attempt to nail some points. After gaining no advantage in 20 phases, referee Glen Jackson called play back for the original Crusaders’ penalty in front of the posts. A quickly-taken Carter tap allowed hooker Corey Flynn to scoop up the ball and slide over from a metre out. Carter’s conversion sent the teams in with just five points the difference.
With the arrival of giant NSW lock Will Skelton and the replacement of Crusaders’ captain Kieran Read, who failed to return to the field after taking a knock late in the first half, Michael Cheika’s men ramped up the pressure. A third HSBC Waratahs’ try came just four minutes later, when skipper Dave Dennis intercepted the ball and set off on a lengthy gallop before delivering the scoring pass to the supporting Foley. McKibbin’s conversion gave his side an impressive 22-10 lead with just 45 minutes played, but a converted try from a driving maul saw the Crusaders go into the final 20 minutes just five points off the pace.
Another Carter penalty set up a thrilling final 10 minutes, with just two points separating the sides going into the closing phases. With Dennis off and a new halfback combination of Matt Lucas and Berrick Barnes on and other changes at prop and wing, the HSBC Waratahs struggled to regain the upper hand going into the final quarter. When the home side were awarded a 73rd minute penalty, Carter made no mistake, kicking the Crusaders into the lead for the first time in the game.
Although the visitors salvaged one last chance to nail the win, Barnes’ last-gasp penalty effort sailed to the right of the posts, allowing the Crusaders to extend their unbeaten run against the NSW side to 11 Super Rugby matches.
In their third away game in a row, the HSBC Waratahs will now travel to Perth to take on the Western Force next Sunday, June 9.
Crusaders 23 (tries: Flynn, Todd; pens: Carter 3; cons: Carter 2) defeated HSBC Waratahs 22 (tries: Crawford, Betham, Foley; pens: McKibbin 1; cons: McKibbin 2)
Half-time: Crusaders 10 – 15 HSBC Waratahs
HSBC Waratahs: 1. Benn Robinson (Eastwood), 2. John Ulugia (Eastern Suburbs), 3. Sekope Kepu (Randwick), 4. Sitaleki Timani (Southern Districts), 5. Kane Douglas (Southern Districts), 6. Pat McCutcheon (Sydney University), 7. Michael Hooper (Manly), 8. Dave Dennis (Sydney University, captain), 9. Brendan McKibbin (Eastern Suburbs), 10. Bernard Foley (Sydney University), 11. Peter Betham (Sydney University), 12. Rob Horne (Southern Districts), 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Northern Suburbs), 14. Cam Crawford (Northern Suburbs), 15. Israel Folau (Sydney University)
Replacements (all used): 16. Luke Holmes (Warringah), 17. Paddy Ryan (Sydney University), 18. Will Skelton (Sydney University), 19. Jed Holloway (Southern Districts), 20. Matt Lucas (Manly), 21. Berrick Barnes (Sydney University), 22. Drew Mitchell (Balmain)
Crusaders: 1. Wyatt Crockett, 2. Corey Flynn, 3. Nepo Laulala, 4. Luke Romano, 5. Dominic Bird, 6. George Whitelock, 7. Matt Todd, 8. Kieran Read (captain), 9. Willi Heinz, 10. Dan Carter, 11. Zac Guildford, 12. Tom Taylor, 13. Ryan Crotty, 14. Tom Marshall, 15. Israel Dagg
Replacements: 16. Ben Funnell, 17. Joe Moody, 18. Jimmy Tupou, 19. Luke Whitelock, 20. Andy Ellis, 21. Robbie Fruean, 22. Adam Whitelock.
Yellow cards: None
Referee: Glen Jackson
Captain Dave Dennis will start at No. 8 as the HSBC Waratahs bid to record their first win in Canterbury since 2004 this Friday.
The absence of Wycliff Palu, who failed to recover from a knock to the knee in last week’s game, has seen Head Coach Michael Cheika reshuffle his back row, with Pat McCutcheon coming in to the starting XV on the blindside flank.
In the backline, Cheika has reverted to the halves and midfield combinations that brought success against the Brumbies two weeks ago, starting scrumhalf Brendan McKibbin and inside centre Rob Horne and naming Matt Lucas and Berrick Barnes on the bench.
Fully recovered from a corked thigh, wing Cam Crawford returns to the starting side in place of Drew Mitchell.
A medial ligament injury to Mitchell Chapman, sustained at training earlier in the week, will see the Eastern Suburbs forward ruled out for six weeks. Instead, Southern Districts’ youngster Jed Holloway will provide back row cover. The game will also mark the 50th Super Rugby appearance of hooker John Ulugia.
The squad travels to Christchurch tomorrow ahead of Friday’s Super Rugby Round 16 match against the Crusaders. In the 19 previous meetings between the sides, NSW has won just four and has lost the last 10. The HSBC Waratahs last won in Christchurch back in February 2004, when the Phil Waugh-captained side recorded a convincing 43-19 victory over the Cantabrian side.
The HSBC Waratahs v Crusaders match kicks off at 5.35pm AEST this Friday, May 31 at AMI Stadium in Christchurch. NSW fans can follow all the action live on FOX SPORTS or keep up to date with every score live on Twitter @NSWWaratahs or by searching #CRUvWAR
HSBC Waratahs team to play the Crusaders
Friday May 31, 2013 (5.35pm AEST)
AMI Stadium, Christchurch
1. Benn Robinson (Eastwood)
2. John Ulugia (Eastern Suburbs)
3. Sekope Kepu (Randwick)
4. Sitaleki Timani (Southern Districts)
5. Kane Douglas (Southern Districts)
6. Pat McCutcheon (Sydney University)
7. Michael Hooper (Manly)
8. Dave Dennis (Sydney University, captain)
9. Brendan McKibbin (Eastern Suburbs)
10. Bernard Foley (Sydney University)
11. Peter Betham (Sydney University)
12. Rob Horne (Southern Districts)
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Northern Suburbs)
14. Cam Crawford (Northern Suburbs)
15. Israel Folau (Sydney University)
16. Luke Holmes (Warringah)
17. Paddy Ryan (Sydney University)
18. Will Skelton (Sydney University)
19. Jed Holloway (Southern Districts)
20. Matt Lucas (Manly)
21. Berrick Barnes (Sydney University)
22. Drew Mitchell (Balmain)