Crusaders hit snag in close win over Force

Fri, 04/06/2021, 07:11 am
Murray Wenzel - AAP
by Murray Wenzel - AAP
Domingo Miotti of the Force kicks the ball during the round four Super Rugby Trans-Tasman match between the Crusaders and the Western Force at Orangetheory Stadium. Photo: Getty Images

The Western Force have put a major dent in the Crusaders' Super Rugby Trans-Tasman title hopes, unable to land the killer blow but still denying the heavyweights a bonus point in a 29-21 loss in Christchurch.

After going down 29-14 early in the second half, the Force dominated field position and possession against the formidable Super Rugby Aotearoa champions.

Reduced to 14 men thanks to a late injury to replacement Tim Anstee, the Force finally cracked the line with the final play of the game when captain Kyle Godwin's long-range kick was chased down by Jordan Olowofela.

Manasa Mataele breaks through for the Crusaders to dot down a brilliant ball delivered by Braydon Ennor

It caught the Crusaders napping and took away a bonus point that could be the difference between high-flying New Zealand teams in a tournament that features a stand-alone final.

Toni Pulu scored a brilliant try in just the second minute, stepping inside and beating three defenders as the Force's pursuit of a first win in Christchurch started well.

But the winger, a smoky for a Wallabies Test cap next month, was helped from the field with an apparent ankle injury just before halftime.

The Crusaders were without rested quartet Richie Mo'unga, Sam Whitelock, Sevu Reece and George Bower at Orangetheory Stadium.

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Still, they looked to have wrestled back momentum with two tries in response to Pulu's early effort before Ollie Callan crossed in his starting debut in the No.8 jersey.

Crusaders fullback Will Jordan was denied a try-scoring treble, strangely because of a Force error when Jake Strachan stepped on the sideline before he threw a pass that teammate Domingo Miotti knocked on.

Jordan Olowofela steals the bonus point chance from the Crusaders chasing down a dead eye kick from Kyle Godwin.

It was all the Force after that, denied a brilliant try when Richard Kahui's tap-on pass was deemed forward and Godwin held up over the line.

That was as close as they got until the final minute though, the Force now boasting three losses by 10 points or less from their four Trans-Tasman clashes so far.

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