CAPE TOWN – A much-improved second-half performance from the Stormers in Christchurch wasn’t enough to prevent the Crusaders from bagging a 45-28 Super Rugby bonus-point win on Saturday.
After a first half filled with terrible lineouts, defensive errors, sloppy play and poor ball retention by the visitors, they managed to fight back in the second half and score three tries to not only narrow the margin, but also put pressure on the Crusaders.
The home side will be disappointed in how their second stanza went as they also experienced some lineout problems and weren’t as clinical as they were in the opening 40 minutes.
The Crusaders started the scoring early on when George Bridge did well to get the ball over the tryline as he dived over after a superbly-judged over-the-top pass from Jack Goodhue.
Scott Robertson’s team scored three more tries by capitalising on the Stormers’ woeful lineout, producing superb, yet simple, backline play and stunning support play.
And after 30 minutes, the Stormers were still scoreless, while the Crusaders looked set to make it a 50-plus victory.
The Stormers – who until the 31st minute had struggled to sustain an attack and coughed up possession with silly mistakes – managed to hold on to the ball and show enough patience to set up loosehead prop JC Janse van Rensburg to go over for the try.
SP Marais, who took care of the kicking duties, converted the five-pointer.
The Crusaders struck again through Bridge on the stroke of halftime to make it 31-7, and as if the first half wasn’t bad enough for the visitors, they were dealt another blow when Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit went off with what was later confirmed to be a concussion.
But things looked much better for the South Africans in the second 40, and soon after the second half kicked off, the Stormers produced some great play when wing Seabelo Senatla brilliantly gathered a high ball.
Hooker Ramone Samuels did his part in the build-up to the try with a stunning offload to Siya Kolisi, and from there on the Stormers forwards took care of things as they powered forward and scored through tighthead Wilco Louw.
Unlike their game against the Waratahs, there was some nice backline play by Robbie Fleck’s team in the second half.
And they also managed to breach the Crusaders’ defence and score a great try through JD Schickerling after taking the ball through the hands and slipping out of tackles to go over and narrow the margin to 10 points at 31-21.
Seta Tamanivalu ran in another try to extend the Crusaders’ lead to 38-21, and flyhalf Richie Mo’unga showed that a Crusaders game isn’t quite complete without a little brilliance from him when he stepped and paced in to take the score to 45-21.
The Stormers had the last say when replacement prop Steven Kitshoff dotted down for the last of their four tries – all scored by forwards – to end the game on 45-28.
Crusaders 45 – Tries: George Bridge (2), Codie Taylor, Billy Harmon, Bryn Hall, Seta Tamanivalu, Richie Mo’unga. Conversions: Mo’unga (5).
Stormers 28 – Tries: JC Janse van Rensburg, Wilco Louw, JD Schickerling, Steven Kitshoff. Conversions: SP Marais (4).