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Christchurch - The Canterbury Crusaders got their Super Rugby campaign up and running on Saturday with a comprehensive 41-19 win over the Bulls in Christchurch.
After losing their opening two matches, things finally clicked for the seven-time champions as they turned on the style against the high-flying Bulls, scoring six tries in their first home match of the season.
Robbie Fruean, Kieran Read, Johnny McNicholl and Tom Marshall secured a four-try bonus point by the 45th minute before prop Wyatt Crockett and Willi Heinz added to the tally.
“The intent was there and it showed that, when we get it right, we can be really dangerous,” Read said.
The Bulls touched down only once near the end through Ryan Stegmann, with their other points coming from the boot of Morne Steyn.
The Bulls were fresh off their first win at Eden Park and the prospect of losing their opening three games for the first time since 1996 seemed to unnerve the Crusaders, with Fruean twice dropping a simple pass under relatively pressure.
The centre made amends in the best possible style, though.
An 11-phase move during which Read and the Whitelock brothers, Sam and George, all made good ground ended with the centre collecting a simple pass and crossing unopposed.
Fruean punched the ball and roared as the frustration fell away, Carter adding the extras for a 10-3 lead.
That got the Crusaders rolling and the sustained pressure ended with Read shoving his way over the line with assistance from several team-mates. He landed on his back and lifted the ball up over his head to ground it behind him.
Steyn got six points back with a pair of penalties but the Crusaders responded in style, keeping possession for almost three minutes as the half-time hooter blew.
They worked it forward through multiple phases and pounding the Bulls' line under the posts before taking it wide when space emerged, allowing Johnny McNicholl to cross on the left wing.
Carter's conversion made it 22-9 at the interval and, after Steyn slotted his fourth penalty, Mashall lit up the match with a try of individual skill and awareness.
The wing received the ball on halfway following a turnover, dummied his way through a gap in the line, broke the tackle of the last man and accelerated to the line for his fourth Super Rugby try.
Marshall laid the platform for the fifth try with a burst up-field and Crockett showed the ball to Zane Kirchner as though he was going to pass, only to gather it in, put his head down and charge through two men over the line.
It looked all over but a rolling maul took the Bulls to within striking distance and Stegmann broke off to carry the ball over the line. Steyn's conversion took the visitors to within 15 points but Heinz crossed late on to round off the scoring. – Reuters