Crusaders,Bulls & Canes earn max points in week 1




New Zealand’s Canterbury Crusaders picked up where they left off last championship season with a convincing victory over the Otago Highlanders to launch their Super 14 rugby title defence this weekend.

The Crusaders played with less than 50 percent possession but cashed in on the errors of fellow Kiwis Otago to win 38-15 in Christchurch Saturday.

They were joined on maximum points from the opening weekend of the 14-week southern provincial rugby tournament by the Wellington Hurricanes and South Africa’s Northern Bulls.

The Hurricanes thrived in driving rain to swirl back from 6-16 down at half-time to overhaul the Auckland Blues 37-19 at Eden Park on Friday.

The Bulls scored four tries to take a vital bonus point from their 30-18 win over promising competition newcomers Cheetahs in Bloemfontein Friday.

Elsewhere on the opening weekend, last season’s beaten finalists New South Wales Waratahs scored the only try of a combative Australian derby to break through for their first victory 16-12 over the Queensland Reds in Brisbane in the professional era Saturday.

Two-time winners ACT Brumbies were too structured and experienced for new Australian franchise Western Force winning 25-10 before 37,000 fans at Perth’s Subiaco Oval.

Springbok Percy Montgomery scored 25 points as the Coastal Sharks of South Africa upset New Zealand’s Waikato Chiefs 30-21 in Durban Saturday and the Western Stormers put paid to the Golden Cats 23-12 in an all-South African tussle at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park on Saturday.

The Crusaders, who claimed their fifth Super 12 crown last year outclassing the Waratahs 35-25 in the final, played with less possession but the Highlanders could not find a way through their defence and were reduced to kicking five penalties for their 15 points.

“I thought we had parity in a lot of areas of the game but it’s the Crusaders’ ability to absorb pressure and react — three of their four tries were from turnovers — that’s really disheartening when you are in control of the ball,” said Highlanders captain Anton Oliver.

In Auckland, the Hurricanes were facing defeat as they trailed by 13 points at the interval, but when the weather turned sour in the second half their fortunes improved dramatically and scored five tries to start the season with a bonus point.

The Bulls’ winning margin flattered them as South Africa’s strongest team only sealed the win in the dying minutes of the game after a try by Springbok winger Bryan Habana.

Coach Rassie Erasmus’s Cheetahs, the domestic Currie Cup champions and playing before 38,000 home fans, showed enough promise, class and determination to be a genuine challenger in the weeks ahead.

The Waratahs scored the only try of a grim Australian derby through flanker Rocky Elsom 12 minutes from full-time to break through for the first time in Brisbane since the advent of Super 12 in 1996.

The Reds, coming off their worst Super rugby season last year when they beat only two teams at home, showed great commitment but a lack of attack denied them the chance to capitalise on their fervour.

Ex-Brumby forward Scott Fava scored a try to put the Western Force 10-8 in front before the Brumbies took control with winger Joel Wilson and Wallaby Matt Giteau scoring late tries.

Source : Sapa-AFP /jlb

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