Crusaders unbeaten and Force still winless after Rd. 9




The Canterbury Crusaders remained unbeaten and the expansion Western Force stayed winless as the ninth round of rugby union’s Super 14 provided both blockbuster and B-grade attractions.

The Crusaders edged the New South Wales Waratahs 17-11 in a star-studded cliffhanger which had hype and intensity but lacked the final plot twist which might have made it fully memorable.

The outcome left the defending champions back on top of the championship ladder with no losses after eight games, the Waratahs still in second place but their opponents encouraged by evidence that the teams in first and second are not unbeatable.

In comparison to Friday’s match, played before a packed house and featuring many of the biggest names in world rugby, Saturday’s clashes between the Otago Highlanders and Australian expansion team the Western Force, the Waikato Chiefs and the Bulls, and the Auckland Blues and the Stormers were hardly crowd-pullers.

Elsewhere, the ACT Brumbies moved into third place ahead of the idle Wellington Hurricanes, beating South Africa’s Cheetahs 53-20.

Jeremy Paul scored two of the Brumbies’ seven tries.

Later Saturday, the Cats met the Queensland Reds at Johannesburg to conclude the round.

Only 8,000 people turned out in Dunedin, in the first afternoon game that city has hosted in three years, to see the Highlanders edge the Force 25-22.

The Force created some excitement when they scored first-half tries through prop Gavin Hardy and fullback Cameron Shepherd to lead 15-3 after 28 minutes. Hopes of a breakthrough win faded when the Highlanders scored three tries and 22 unanswered points to lead 25-15 before a late try to Shepherd closed the margin.

“That’s going to hurt the boys more than any other loss this season,” said Force captain Nathan Sharpe. “It’s not often you get into a position to beat Otago in Dunedin and we had the chance and let it get away.” The Waikato Chiefs and South Africa’s Bulls gave their audience a few thrills when they fought out a seven-try, 26-26 draw at Hamilton.

The Bulls had the biggest role in the first act, scoring three tries to lead 19-11 at halftime and a fourth for a 26-11 advantage three minutes into the second half.

They were then cruelly upstaged by the Chiefs who scored late tries through center Sam Tuitupou and flanker Steven Bates to tie the scores. The deadlock endured through the last 10 minutes of the match.

“We threw it away at the end,” said Bulls captain Victor Matfield. “I think we had the game in the bag and just a pity we couldn’t finish it off.” The Blues left their supporters with a feeling of anticlimax as they beat South Africa’s Stormers 32-15 at Eden Park.

Although they took their first four-try bonus point of the season, for tries by Isa Nacewa, Keven Mealamu, Anthony Tuitavake and Junior Poluleuligaga, they remained only five rungs from the bottom of the championship ladder.

“I think firstly we just wanted to win the game and the bonus point was … well, just a bonus,” said Auckland’s captain Mealamu.

Weekend summaries:

ACT 53 (Jeremy Paul 2, George Gregan, Matt Giteau, Mark Gerrard, George Smith, Clyde Rathbone tries; Gerrard 3, Giteau 2, Stirling Mortlock conversions; Giteau 2 penalties), Cheetahs 20 (Gistard Pieterse, Ronnie Cooke tries; Meyer Bosman, Bevin Fortuin conversions; Meyer Bosman 2 penalties).

Otago 25 (Jason MacDonald, Josh Blackie, Vilimoni Delasau tries; Ben Blair 2 conversions, 2 penalties), Western Force 22 (Cameron Shepherd 2, Gavin Hardy tries; Shepherd 2 conversions, penalty).

Bulls 26 (Bryan Habana, Fourie du Preez, Morne Steyn, Pedrie Wannenburg tries; Steyn 3 conversions), Waikato 26 (Mils Muliaina, Sam Tuitupou, Steven Bates tries; Stephen Donald conversion, 3 penalties).

Auckland 32 (Isa Nacewa, Keven Mealamu, Anthony Tuitavake, Junior Poluleuligaga tries; Nacewa 3 conversions, 2 penalties), Stormers 15 (Naas Olivier 5 penalties).

Canterbury 17 (Chris Jack, Leon MacDonald tries; Daniel Carter 2 conversions, penalty), New South Wales Waratahs 11 (Morgan Turinui try; Peter Hewat 2 penalties).

Cats 16 Reds 23 – Cats Penalties: Andre Pretorius (3 out of 5) Tries: Penalty try (19th min) Conversions: Andre Pretorius (1) Reds Penalties: Julian Huxley ( 3 out of 3) Tries: Peter Hynes (10th min), David Croft (52nd min) Conversions: Julian Huxley (2 out of 2)

Source : Sapa-AP

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