Crusaders grind out scrappy win

A spectacle it wasn’t, but the Crusaders managed to do enough to bag the four points, bruising the Hurricanes by 23-13 in Christchurch.

Despite being evenly contested, the game itself never really got going. Finally, as is typical, it was the Crusaders who never really gave up a lead they gained after going down early, taking enough opportunities to take the win.

It was such a disappointing match on a perfect Christchurch evening. If you had looked at the teams beforehand you could well have expected a match of flow and creativity. Both sides had top class loose forwards, the admiration – and envy – of the whole rugby world. Both sides had top class loose forwards. Both sides are famed for their skill, speed and positive approach to the game.

The teams started sloppy and jerky, and you may well have suspected early nerves. When the final siren sounded, the early nerves were still there and the game eventually ended on a knock-on, ironically after the best bit of team running of the match.

There were three tries in the match, all min the first half. The 40 minutes of the second half produced just two penalty goals. In that half the visiting Hurricanes had the better chances to score.

The Hurricanes were making the early errors and so were under the early pressure.

The first four times they were penalised the guilty were their three great loose forwards. The second one was against Jerry Collins for grabbing the halfback before he had the ball and Carter kicked the goal into the night sky.

Then there was some great work by Jason Eaton. Andrew Ellis had a wobbly match at halfback for the Crusaders, leaving Carter to clear up from his toes or above his head. Eaton got in and charged down a Carter clearance. The tall lock then won the ball and charged at the line. This became a five-metre scrum to the Hurricanes. They went left and Ma’a Nonu simply sliced through on the outside between Rua Tipoki and Casey Laulala. Piri Weepu converted. 7-3 to the Hurricanes 7-3.

As they often do, the Crusaders hit back with a try that started as if it were going nowhere. They passed on the short side to the left to Corey Flynn. The sturdy hooker bustled past groping Paul Tito and burst away from John Schwalger and past Corey Jane for a try in the left corner, whence Carter converted. 10-7 to the Crusaders.

They scored again soon afterwards when they gave Caleb Ralph an overlap. The left wing chipped ahead and Alby Mathewson just managed to save by taking the ball into touch for a five-metre line-put to the Crusaders. The Crusaders mauled, Mose Tuiali’i bashed and there was a tackle/ruck at the line. Suddenly Ross Filipo burst straight through for a simple try, which Carter again converted. 17-7.

Those two tries were the winning of the match.

Weepu kicked penalties when first Collins and then Kieran Read were penalised. That made it 17-13 at half-time.

There was a long wait in the second half when Collins was taken off, neck strapped, on a stretcher after a tackle on Tipoki. He was later taken to hospital but the report was that it was all “precautionary”.

Jane had a great run down the right touch-line when he beat a remarkably high-profile trio of Richie McCaw, who must surely never have had as anonymous a game as this, Tuiali’i and Cater.

At this stage Nonu, protesting angry innocence, was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle. He and Collins had been spoken to in the first half for dangerous tackling. When his time was up, Nonu did not return, Tana Umaga taking his place.

The Crusaders had a five-metre line-out and bashed for a long time till a forward pass gave the Hurricanes a defensive scrum. When the ball wobbled out of the scrum Ellis got it but still the defence held and the Crusaders had to be satisfied with the first score of the half, a penalty by Cater. 20-13 after 65 minutes.

The Hurricanes had

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