Bloemfontein – The Crusaders scored six tries against the Cheetahs as they ran out 52-31 victors in their Super Rugby match at the Free State stadium, in Bloemfontein, on Saturday.
The Crusaders had not beaten the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein since 2007, but captain and eighth man Kieran Read and his charges gave the Kiwi side a much needed win in the competition.
At the start of the encounter, Colin Slade was successful with his second penalty attempt in the 11th minute, giving the Crusaders an early lead. The Cheetahs had trouble controlling their own lineouts and gifted the visitors possession frequently.
The hosts also lost their Springbok flyhalf Johan Goosen in the 15th minute due to concussion.
The disruption, however, seemed to have little effect as Cheetahs immediately scored. Winger Cornal Hendricks went over in the corner, after a good attacking phase of play by the Cheetahs backline in the 17th minute. Elgar Watts converted a difficult kick from the corner to make it 7-3.
Slade brought his side back within one point via a second penalty minutes later.
The visitors regained the lead after fullback Israel Dagg followed up a chip kick through and rounded off in the corner. Slade was on song with the conversion, suddenly leaving the Cheetahs to trail by six points.
In response, Watts kicked a much needed penalty in the 34th minute to reduce the deficit to just three points, but Slade cancelled it with two successful attempts of his own shortly thereafter to give the Crusaders a half-time lead of 19-10.
The Crusaders scored 30 seconds into the second half, with winger Nemani Nadolo running through with ease after a lapse in concentration on defence by the Cheetahs. Slade again converted.
Cheetahs scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius, scored the second try for his side with Watts converting.
Cheetahs replacement Teboho Mohoje scored his first Super Rugby try of his career shortly thereafter. Watts converted and suddenly the visitors only had a cushion of two points to defend.
The hosts then hit the lead as Cheetahs fullback Willie le Roux side-stepped his way over, after a clever cross kick by Watts in the 59th minute. Watts converted for a five point lead.
Crusaders replacement Tom Taylor soon squashed that lead with his try in the 64th minute. Slade converted and the lead once again changed hands.
Crusaders winger Nadolo scored his second of the evening after a quick tap from a penalty by Slade, and even though the conversion was missed, it opened up a gap of seven points with just ten minutes left.
Slade did have the final say when he gathered a loose ball and ran around for a try under the uprights which he also converted. Nadolo then scored his hat-trick on the final whistle to seal a comprehensive scoreline.
Points scorers: Crusaders 52 (19): Tries: Israel Dagg, Nemani Nadolo (3), Tom Taylor, Colin Slade. Conversions: Colin Slade (4), Tyler Bleyendaal. Penalties: Colin Slade (4).
Cheetahs 31 (10): Tries: Cornal Hendricks, Sarel Pretorius, Teboho Mohoje, Willie le Roux. Conversions: Elgar Watts (4). Penalty: Elgar Watts. – Sapa