A century of classic Crusades

The Force is the only side in the history of Super rugby never to have lost to the Crusaders. But then again they have only played them once, drawing 23-all in Perth last year.

But this Saturday, the Crusaders threaten to make the Force a part of the Super rugby powerhouse’s folklore. A win at home for the Christchurch side will make them the first Super franchise to win a 100 games.

The Crusaders have played in more games than any other side – 148 – owing to the fact that they have made it almost given that they appear annually in the final and semi-finals of the tournament.

Another near unbelievable record they hold is the fact that they have been unbeaten at home for the past 24 games; a record almost as awe-inspiring as their six Super 14 title out of a possible nine.

The Force will definitely be aware of the fact that they are to play against Super rugby royalty.

But they will also be aware of how close they came to beating them last year, indeed last year they did everything against the champions but take home the four log points.

The Force held the Crusaders to an exciting 23-23 draw during in their first clash in Perth last year, narrowly failing to hold on after having roared out to a 20-8 half-time advantage before a stunned crowd at Subiaco Oval.

While the visitors ended up out-scoring the home side three tries to two on the day – with number eight Mose Tuiali’i, winger Rico Gear and fullback Leon MacDonald all touching down – it was the Force who were left lamenting what might have been, after a TMO decision went against them over the Crusaders try-line late in the contest.

Just under a year on from that exciting match in Perth, the Crusaders bagged win number 99 last Saturday in Sydney against the Waratahs.

That the Waratahs should kick start a potentially historic week for the Crusade was perhaps fitting, as they were the Crusaders’ first ever victims in Super rugby, back in the inaugural year when the side closed out a 21-16 victory in Christchurch.

Justin Marshall and Mark Mayerhofler scored the tries for the Crusaders on that occasion – March 29, 1996 – in what was the fifth competition match played by the franchise.

Although the Crusaders beat just the Waratahs and the Hurricanes in the first year of operations, their fortunes have improved to such an extent in the time since, that they approach Super rugby’s first century 10 wins to the good of the Blues – who have the next best victory tally, with 89.

The best of the South African sides is the Sharks, who, either as Natal or as the Sharks, have won 60 games collectively. Brumbies are top of the Australian pops with 74 victories.

Win number 10 for the Crusaders was achieved in the third season, 38-26 against the Brumbies in Timaru. Later that year, win 17 was secured against the Blues in the 1998 Super 12 final, with the 20-13 success breaking the 20-match unbeaten home run for the Auckland-based side. As said, the Crusaders hold that record now.

It shows just how dominant the Crusaders have been as a Super rugby force in recent years that while it took until the seventh Super 12 before they raised 50 wins, just five competitions on, they now stand poised for three figures.

The Crusaders 50th win was claimed 48-20 against the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, three weeks prior to their completion of Super rugby’s only perfect season – in 2002 when all 13 matches were won.

Three years later, in 2005, win number 75 was raised when the Crusaders pummeled the Stormers 51-23 in Cape Town.

The side started the 12th Crusade with six wins required for the hundred, but have now whittled that figure down to one, with the last three wins being claimed in succession.

If John Mitchell’s Western Australians are to thwart the Crusaders’ bid to reach the landmark this weekend, they must achieve an outcome that has be

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