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Crusaders Stutter But Still Too Good For Lions

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Crusaders Stutter But Still Too Good For Lions

Wellington, March 20 NZPA - It was a long way from the vintage Crusaders but they still had too many weapons for the Lions in a 46-19 Super 14 rugby win in Christchurch today.

It was expected to be a lopsided contest but the hosts were made to work against the team with the leakiest defence in the competition, only snaring a fourth try for a bonus point with six minutes remaining when winger Sean Maitland crossed for his second.

It was a rare fluent moment for the seven-time champions, who stuttered through the gears against the winless South Africans, who were far more resolute than when conceding 73 points to the New South Wales Waratahs last weekend.

They remain winless but can be pleased with a gutsy outing which saw them trail just 22-16 at halftime before running out of gas as the Crusaders dominated territory and possession in the second spell. They snared a fifth try after the final hooter to reserve halfback Willi Heinz.

Ball retention and a lack of numbers at the breakdown were the Crusaders' biggest problems, possibly caused by wholesale changes to the side this week by coach Todd Blackadder. He opted to rest five All Blacks, including first five-eighth Daniel Carter, flanker Kieran Read and lock Brad Thorn.

Their fourth successive win will guarantee the Crusaders are second going into their bye round next weekend.

Lock Chris Jack made his first appearance in red and black since 2007 when he came off the bench for the last half hour while another former All Black, Lions first five-eighth Carlos, also entered the game in the second spell but he couldn't terrorise the Crusaders in the manner he did when his prime with the Blues, earlier this decade.

The Crusaders' best were first five-eighth Colin Slade, who kicked 21 points including five penalties, industrious loose forwards Richie McCaw and Thomas Waldrom and second five-eighth Ryan Crotty, whose long pass put Maitland into space for the first try after 12 minutes.

Lions hooker Hannes Franklin responded soon afterwards with his team's only try, barging over a ruck to score under the crossbar.

Flanker Jonathan Poff grabbed the Crusaders' second try after a nice burst by hooker Ti'i Paulo while it wasn't until the 60th minute that centre Adam Whitelock grabbed their third when Waldrom powered 40m after snaffling a loose ball.

While the Crusaders face a week off to regroup, the Lions travel down State Highway One next week for a clash with the Highlanders in Dunedin.

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