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Crusaders Provide Only Bright Spot For NZ Super Rugby Teams

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Crusaders Provide Only Bright Spot For NZ Super Rugby Teams

Wellington, March 14 NZPA - The Crusaders, with a hard-earned win over the Chiefs, provided the only bright spot for New Zealand sides in the fifth week of Super 14 rugby as the Hurricanes and Highlanders were left licking wounds inflicted by South African sides.

The 26-19 result saw the Crusaders slip into third on the standings from fifth behind the table-topping Bulls, who have a game in hand, and the Stormers, who climbed into second from third after hammering an untidy Hurricanes 37-13 at Cape Town.

The Highlanders had no show of repeating last year's upset win over the Bulls at Palmerston North as they were demolished 50-35 at Pretoria.

The Bulls, the reigning champions, top the table with 20 points and the Stormers are a point behind.

The Chiefs are now fourth in the standings after being second, the Hurricanes drop from fourth to seventh while the Highlanders remain 11th.

The Crusaders maintained their forward momentum, scoring two tries to one to secure a third successive victory since dropping their second match of the season to the Reds.

All Blacks first five-eighth Dan Carter was an important figure, landing six of eight goalkicks for a haul of 16 points to complement a brace of tries to halfback Kahn Fotuali'i.

That harvest saw Carter move to 996 points and become New Zealand's leading scorer in Super rugby, passing Andrew Mehrtens' previous mark of 990.

The leading Super rugby points scorer is the Brumbies' Stirling Mortlock, currently on 1005.

Tipping the contest the Crusaders' way were their outstanding loose forwards, spearheaded by No 8 Kieran Read and followed closely by All Blacks skipper Richard McCaw playing on the blindside flank.

The contest for possession was particularly fierce at the breakdown, and these two gave the southerners a decided edge to build on their team's superior work at the set pieces.

At Cape Town, the massive Newlands Stadium's reputation as a graveyard for New Zealand teams was enhanced as the Stormers overwhelmed a hesitant Hurricanes this morning.

The Hurricanes next head north to Pretoria for an equally daunting mission against the Bulls, after losing their second game in South Africa, 13-37.

Apart from the Chiefs, New Zealand franchises have found it tough going in South Africa this season.

The Stormers boasted too much power and mobility in the forwards, tactical control by the inside backs and clinical finishing skills when a try beckoned.

The Hurricanes will be pleased with the effectiveness of the front row of Jacob Ellison, Andrew Hore and Neemia Tialata, who caused several headaches for the Stormers' scrum.

But the backline was surprisingly stilted for much of the game, despite All Blacks centre Conrad Smith returning to the midfield.

They failed to breach a rock solid Stormers defence until the final quarter, when two late tries were too little.

The Hurricanes are likely to be without fullback Cory Jane after the All Blacks fullback was knocked out momentarily trying to stop the Stormers bullocking Fijian winger Sireli Naqelevuki on his way to his first try.

The Hurricanes had no answer to the rolling mauls of the Stormers and a 40-metre push which led to the try by No 8 Duane Vermeulen was classic in its execution.

David Smith scored when the Hurricanes backline finally strung together enough passes to out-flank two home tacklers, and replacement halfback Tyson Keats scuttled over for a meaningless try in the last minute.

At Pretoria, the Stormers overwhelmed the Highlanders by scoring seven tries.

There was a brave Highlanders' comeback in the second half with enterprising fullback Israel Dagg scoring all their three tries but skipper Jamie Mackintosh admitted that in the early stages, his side "was staring down the barrel of 100 points".

In other matches, the Waratahs beat the hapless Lions 73-12 and the Brumbies defeated the Sharks 24-22.

The Reds and the Force were to play later tonight while the Blues and Cheetahs had byes this weekend.

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