Super rugby champions the Crusaders scored 31 unanswered points in a come from behind 31-29 victory over the Waratahs at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
The victory puts the Crusaders back on top of the New Zealand conference after the Hurricanes had overtaken them with a victory over the Blues.
The Crusaders lead the Hurricanes by a point in the standings but the Wellington side have a match in hand. The Waratahs still lead the Australian conference.
The result is the Crusaders ninth straight victory in Christchurch over the Waratahs and their seventh straight win against all teams this season.
The Waratahs made an explosive start as they scored the first four tries in the match whilst keeping the current Super rugby champion Crusaders scoreless.
The explosive start put the Waratahs into bonus point winning territory and a 29-0 lead but with around 50 minutes left to play in the match.
The Crusaders dug deep and in the 68th minute the Crusaders took the lead which meant the Wartatahs had gone from a position of winning with bonus point to losing with a bonus point.
Having scored 29 unanswered points the Waratahs then allowed the Crusaders to score 31 unanswered points and take the lead and ultimately the victory.
The Crusaders comeback was aided by two yellow cards – one in each half – for the Waratahs. It’s a cliche but this really was a game of two halves.
Cam Clark opened the scoring for the Waratahs in the third minute of the match. Bernard Foley missed the conversion but then nailed a penalty kick in the 12th minute.
On the quarter of an hour mark Taqele Naiyaravoro intercepted a pass for the Waratahs and raced away to the line and scored. Foley added the conversion.
Pressure appeared to be mounting for the home side as they were slipping off tackles and dropping passes. It was a most un-Crusader like performance.
After several passes had gone to ground the Crusaders tried a cross field kick Israel Folau beat them to the ball and combined with Kurtley Beale to score the game’s most exciting try. Foley again added the conversion.
The Crusaders troubles got worse with a mix up in a tackle on Israel Folau as George Bridge knocked the ball back for a lurking Curtis Rona who gathered the ball and rain in to score the Waratahs fourth try.
Foley added the conversion to give the Australian side a 29 point lead.
With around six minutes of the opening half remaining the Crusaders started to find their game and pushed the Waratahs back to their try line after Folau had got back to secure a territorial kick but became isolated. After a couple of phases the Crusaders stretched the Waratahs defence and Joe Moody found a hole and slipped through to score the home side’s first points. Richie Mo’unga added the conversion.
From that point on the Crusaders were in charge and their efforts were made a little easier after Nick Phipps was yellow carded in extra time of the first half for an infringement on the line at the ruck. Without Phipps in the backs the Crusaders went wide with speed which allowed Seta Tamanivalu to crash over and score despite a double tackle from Folau and Beale.
Mo’unga’s conversion ended the half with the scores at 19-29.
Almost quarter of an hour passed in the second half before the next score as Pete Samu and Manasa Mataele both went over but were both called back for earlier infringements.
Taqele Naiyaravoro was judged to have intentionally knocked the ball down as the Crusaders developed an overlap so like Phipps at the end of the first half he was sent to the bin.
With Naiyaravoro missing out wide the Crusaders moved the ball at pace after a scrum to Braydon Ennor on the wing who scored the first points of the second half. Mo’unga was unable to add the extras so the home side still trailed by five points.
The Waratahs first chance for points in the half went begging as Foley’s penalty kick went well wide.
The Crusaders went into the lead thanks to a penalty try after the Waratahs lightweight scrum repeatedly battled to contain the red pack.
At 31-29 and with seven minutes remaining Waratahs had the chance to snatch the lead but again Foley missed the kick from a similar point that he had missed ten minute earlier.
Although the Waratahs finished strongly the Crusaders experience came through and they wound down the clock until full time.
Next week in the fourteenth round the Crusaders play the Blues in Auckland while the Waratahs host the Highlanders in Sydney.
Final Score Crusaders 31(19) Waratahs 29 (29)
Tries – J.Moody, C.Taylor, S.Tamanivalu, B.Ennor
Con – R.Mo’unga 2
Tries – C.Clark, T.Naiyaravoro, I.Folau, C.Rona, Penalty try
Pen – B.Foley
Con – B.Foley 3, (Penalty try)
Cards – N.Phipps (41st min yellow), T.Naiyaravoro (yellow 53rd min)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Ref 1:Jamie Nutbrown
Assistant Ref 2:Paul Williams
TMO :Aaron Paterson
15 George Bridge, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Manasa Mataele, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Pete Samu, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Donald Brighouse, 19 Mitchell Dunshea, 20 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor
15 Israel Folau, 14 Cam Clark, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Will Miller, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Shambeckler Vui, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Jed Holloway, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Lalakai Foketi, 23 Bryce Hegarty