George Bridge charges over for one of his three tries against the Cheetahs. Photo: Christiaan Kotze, AFP
George Bridge charges over for one of his three tries against the Cheetahs. Photo: Christiaan Kotze, AFP
Raymond Rhule about to hand-off Crusaders opposite number George Bridge to score the opening try for the Cheetahs. Photo: Gerhard Steenkamp, BackpagePix
Raymond Rhule about to hand-off Crusaders opposite number George Bridge to score the opening try for the Cheetahs. Photo: Gerhard Steenkamp, BackpagePix

BLOEMFONTEIN – The unbeaten Crusaders ran in four second-half tries to kill off any hope of a comeback from the Cheetahs to record another emphatic 48-21 Super Rugby bonus-point victory on Saturday.

The seven-time champions thrashed the Stormers 57-24 in Christchurch last weekend, and despite the marathon trip of nearly 24 hours to South Africa, the Kiwis ran riot at the Free State Stadium to register their ninth win in a row.

Energetic left wing George Bridge grabbed his second consecutive hat-trick, running in his third try in the final quarter.

The Crusaders flew out of the blocks into an 8-0 lead after just 12 minutes as first flyhalf Richie Mo’unga slotted a penalty, and then lively fullback David Havili dotted down for the first of two tries on the day.

Havili, who has an eye for a gap, benefited from a powerful Crusaders scrum on the Cheetahs’ five-metre line where the visitors won a heel against the head. The ball was quickly spun out to right wing Seta Tamanivalu, who bumped off Raymond Rhule and put Havili over in the corner.

The hosts weren’t going to lie down, though, and they were on the scoreboard before the end of the opening quarter.

A brilliant counter-attack sparked by wing Sergeal Petersen saw fullback Clayton Blommetjies in space, and he kept his cool to find captain Francois Venter.

The ball eventually made its way to Petersen again, who passed back to Rhule for the Cheetahs’ opening try.

But that was as good as it got for the Free Staters, with the Crusaders turning on the offloads and pace in a multi-phase attack in the 34th minute, which finished up with Bridge bursting through a few feeble Cheetahs tackles to grab his sixth try of the season.

There was some controversy a few minutes later, though, as what looked like a perfectly good try by Cheetahs prop Ox Nche was disallowed by TMO Johan Greeff.

Nche powered through a double Crusaders tackle and kept his composure to hand the ball to a flying Petersen, who crossed the line. But referee Federico Anselmi wanted the TMO to check that last transfer, and Greeff somehow found “compelling evidence” that the ball had gone forward.

Raymond Rhule about to hand-off Crusaders opposite number George Bridge to score the opening try for the Cheetahs. Photo: Gerhard Steenkamp, BackpagePix


To add insult to injury, the Crusaders made it an effective 14-point swing when they went the length of the field for Bridge to get his second, which included an inch-perfect cross-kick.

The 22-7 halftime score soon became 29-7 after the break when Mo’unga darted over from a five-metre scrum.

Nche did eventually get his try following good work by flyhalf Niel Marais and flank Uzair Cassiem, and at 29-14, the Cheetahs were still in the game with 25 minutes to go.

But a three-try blitz in nine minutes from the Crusaders settled the outcome, despite two late yellow cards to Sam Whitelock and Mitch Hunt.

Points-Scorers 

Cheetahs 21: Tries: Raymond Rhule, Ox Nche, Sergeal Petersen. Conversions: Niel Marais (3).

Crusaders 48: Tries: David Havili (2), George Bridge (3), Richie Mo’unga, Mitch Drummond. Conversions: Mo’unga (5). Penalty: Mo’unga (1).

African News Agency (ANA)

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