Classy Crusaders sink SharksComment on this story
Wellington - The Canterbury Crusaders methodically ground down the Sharks to score four second half tries and canter to a 38-6 victory in Christchurch on Saturday that propelled them to their first Super Rugby final in three years.
Crusaders captain Kieran Read, wingers Nemani Nadolo and Johnny McNicholl, scrumhalf Willi Heinz and flanker Matt Todd all scored tries for the home side, who dominated throughout and held the visitors scoreless in the second half.
All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter kicked two conversions and three penalties for the Crusaders, while Sharks flyhalf Patrick Lambie slotted two first half penalties.
The Crusaders advanced to their 11th final with the victory and will meet the winner of the all-Australian clash between the New South Wales Waratahs and ACT Brumbies, who meet later on Saturday in Sydney.
The victory also released some of the pressure on coach Todd Blackadder, whose side had not reached the final since 2011 and have not won the title since he succeeded Robbie Deans in 2008.
"Extremely satisfied, knowing we are going to the big stage next week is an awesome feeling," Read said in a televised interview. "We are really pleased with that performance.
"We started well, played at a high tempo early on and put them under pressure."
The Sharks' kicking-based territory game was executed badly with the ball either finding Crusaders' players in plenty of space to run it back, going out on the full or in one case by Lambie, rolling dead in goal.
Israel Dagg, Carter and Colin Slade capitalised by pinning the Sharks inside their own half or by playing at pace and stretching the visitors across the field, with Read prominent in his characteristic bursts down the wide channels.
Carter duly converted their opportunities with three first half penalties, while Read scored a 17th-minute try.
The Sharks worked back into the game by capitalising on a charged down kick and dropped pass to set up field position that allowed Lambie to slot his two penalties.
Lambie missed a late penalty right on the halftime hooter, to allow the home side to go into the break with a 16-6 lead.
Nadolo got more involved in the second half as the Crusaders continued their high-paced game, though it took some initiative by scrumhalf Andy Ellis to set up the Fijian international's 49th minute try.
Already awarded a penalty advantage, Ellis appeared to be waiting for the whistle then seized on the Sharks' hesitation, scampered through a gap to feed Carter, who then passed to Nadolo to go over and give the home side a 21-6 lead.
Carter and Lambie then both missed penalties before the game turned definitively in the home side's favour when the ball squirted out of a Sharks' defensive scrum that Heinz snaffled up and sprinted 15 metres to score with 15 minutes remaining.
McNicholl's 70th-minute try ultimately summed up the pattern of the match as the Crusaders seized on a poor kick from the Sharks and with backs and forwards spreading the ball wide and backing each other up, were able to sweep down field.
Todd then rubbed salt into the wound when the Crusaders pack executed a perfect rolling maul from an attacking lineout with about two minutes remaining to blow the score out.
"Everything we worked on the last two weeks... we just couldn't do... we are extremely disappointed with our performance," Sharks captain Bismarck du Plessis said.
"We didn't play in the right areas and couldn't do what we worked on." – Reuters