Crusaders hold on to beat Highlanders

The Crusaders secured their first victory of the 2015 season when they beat the Highlanders 20-26 at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

The victory is the Crusaders sixth straight win against the Highlanders who had a bye last week.

Both teams scored two tries each and the difference came down to two penalties kicked by Colin Slade for the Crusaders.

Still stinging from an upset last week at the hands of the Rebels, the Crusaders showed glimpses of the form that got them to the final last year.

However, the seven-time champions needed to snuff out a late surge from the Highlanders in a high-intensity game.

“It was a true southern derby, both teams chucked plenty at it and we were happy to come away with it in the end,” Crusaders captain Matt Todd said.

“In the second half we got down their end but didn’t capitalise as much as we should. We knew the Highlanders would come back and they certainly did. Credit to our boys who dug deep.”

The Crusaders five changes to the side delivered an insipid performance against the Rebels last week, including replacing the injured Dan Carter with Colin Slade.

The game began at a furious pace and the Crusaders were soon ahead thanks to a Slade penalty.

The Highlanders hit back through Aaron Smith, who sold Richie McCaw a dummy pass after bursting from the breakdown then dived through the resulting gap for a try.

The Crusaders responded by laying siege to the Highlanders’ try-line. McCaw thought he was over but was ruled held up before lock Scott Barrett finally found a way through.

Winger Johnny McNicholl scored a second five-pointer on the stroke of half time to put the Crusaders firmly in control 20-7 at the break.

They looked to be holding on comfortably until livewire centre Malakai Fekitoa cut through their defence with 20 minutes to go, sparking hopes of a Highlanders’ revival.

The Crusaders defence proved up to the challenge but the Highlanders at least managed to score a late penalty that narrowed the margin enough to earn them a bonus point.

Final Score Highlanders 20 (7) Crusaders 26 (20)

Scorers

Highlanders 
Tries – A.Smith, M.Fekitoa 
Pen – L.Sopoaga 2
Con – L.Sopoaga 2
Drop – 
Cards –

Crusaders
Tries – S.Barrett, J.McNicholl
Pen – C.Slade 4
Con – C.Slade 2
Drop – 
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Ref 1:Mike Lash
Assistant Ref 2:Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri
TMO : Chris Wratt

Teams

Highlanders

1. Josh Hohneck , 2. Liam Coltman , 3. Ross Geldenhuys , 4. Tom Franklin , 5. Joe Wheeler , 6. Elliot Dixon , 7. John Hardie , 8. Nasi Manu ( c ) , 9. Aaron Smith , 10. Lima Sopoaga , 11. Patrick Osborne , 12. Shaun Treeby , 13. Malakai Fekitoa , 14. Waisake Naholo , 15. Ben Smith ( c )

Replacements : 16. Ash Dixon , 17. Kane Hames , 18. Ma’afu Fia , 19. Mark Reddish , 20. Dan Pryor , 21. Fumiaki Tanaka , 22. Jason Emery , 23. Marty Banks

Crusaders

1 Wyatt Crockett, 2 Ben Funnell, 3 Owen Franks, 4 Luke Romano, 5 Scott Barrett ,6 Richie McCaw, 7 Matt Todd (c), 8 Luke Whitelock, 9 Mitchell Drummond,10 Colin Slade, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 12 Ryan Crotty, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 14 Robbie Fruean, 15 Israel Dagg

Replacements : 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Dominic Bird , 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Nafi Tuitavake

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