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Crusaders Rediscover Form With Crushing Win

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Crusaders Rediscover Form With Crushing Win

Wellington, Feb 26 NZPA - Some vintage Crusaders Super 14 rugby form returned as a dominant forward effort carried them back to the winners' circle with a 35-6 defeat of the Sharks in Christchurch tonight.

In the wake of last week's disastrous 41-20 humbling from the Queensland Reds, the Crusaders were more disciplined at AMI Stadium, smothering their opponents in the physical exchanges and scoring two of their four tries through winger Zac Guildford.

Up 10-6 at halftime and just 16-6 with nine minutes to play, the hosts rocketed clear with late tries to Guildford, replacement centre Adam Whitelock and replacement hooker Quentin MacDonald to snare a bonus point.

It took that long for the hosts to shake off the handling errors that had earlier frustrated their attempts to build a lead.

The Sharks rarely threatened, relying on two well-struck penalties from more than 50m out by halfback Rory Kockott in the first half for their points, both aided by a stiff breeze.

They were starved of possession and territory for the most part by a Crusaders side who welcomed captain Richie McCaw's first appearance of the season for the final half hour off the bench while All Blacks tight forwards Brad Thorn and Wyatt Crockett made their first starts of the campaign.

They were at the heart of victory, establishing dominance at scrum time against an all-Springboks front row while all the home forwards were dominant defenders against opponents who were organised but lacking in attacking verve.

The Sharks registered a third straight defeat and, with four matches on the road to follow, already appear distant hopefuls to reach the playoffs.

The kick-dominated first half was reminiscent of how the Crusaders won numerous games tight last year, squeezing out a narrow lead through Guildford's sharp try on the cutback.

They gradually pulled clear through the boot of Carter before Guildford's second arrived when he intercepted a long, loose pass by Riaan Swanepoel.

With defenders increasingly falling off tackles and with Sharks reserve first five-eighth Andy Goode in the sinbin for a high tackle on Carter, Whitelock and MacDonald took full advantage -- the latter in just his second Crusaders appearance.

Twin black marks over the evening was the sight of Crusaders prop Ben Franks and No 8 Thomas Waldrom hobbling off the field at the end of each half.

Carter's 13 points saw him move ahead of former New South Wales Waratah Matt Burke to become the third-highest scorer in Super rugby on 960.

The Crusaders next week host the Blues while the Sharks face the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney.

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