Giteau stars as Force and Crusaders draw - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Giteau stars as Force and Crusaders draw

By Justin Chadwick 14/03/2009 08:07:39 PM Comments (0)

Matt Giteau played a starring role as the Western Force overcame a 14-point second-half deficit to claim a dramatic 23-23 Super 14 draw against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday.

The injury-hit Crusaders ran in three unanswered tries in the first half and led 23-9 in the 57th minute before the Force, inspired by Giteau's brilliance, stormed back into the contest.

Giteau, who nailed two conversions and three penalties for the night without a miss, set up Haig Sare and James O'Connor for tries as the Force piled on 14 points to level the scores.

But the Force couldn't land the killer blow and were lucky to escape with the draw after Crusaders flyhalf Stephen Brett missed an easy penalty just six minutes from time.

The result could come at a cost for the Force, who lost winger Cameron Shepherd to an ankle injury in the second half and prop Ben Castle to a shoulder/neck complaint.

"We are disappointed not to get the win," Force coach John Mitchell said.

"We had the last possession of the game but, in saying that, you've still got to be content that we got ourselves back into the game.

"We didn't start well and they stretched us with a lot of width and got a lot of one-on-one opportunities, which gave them a lot of quick ball.

"We had trouble with that early.

"The scoreline wasn't an issue at halftime, it was more about getting ourselves back into the match.

"It's pleasing how we came back."

Coincidentally, the first draw between the two sides - in Perth in 2006 - was also a 23-23 scoreline.

Inside centre Ryan Crotty, Tim Bateman and lock Isaac Ross all notched tries in the first half as the Crusaders' expansive game plan left the Force defence floundering on numerous occasions.

The 20-6 halftime scoreline could have been even worse for the Force had Brett been on target with his boot, the Crusaders flyhalf missing two penalties and two conversions in the first 40 minutes.

But the Force came out a different side in the second half and broke the shackles in the 58th minute when Giteau made a slicing run through the Crusaders defence before unleashing a 13m pass to Sare, who did well to stay in the field of play and touch down in the corner.

Crusaders fullback Leon MacDonald was shown a yellow card in the 66th minute and the Force made the most of the numerical advantage as Giteau bounced off two tackles to send O'Connor over in the 69th minute to ensure a share of the spoils.

The draw leaves the Force four points adrift of the top four, while the seven-times Super champions Crusaders, who take on NSW next Saturday in Sydney, are languishing a further two points behind.

Adding to the Crusaders' early-season woes the citing of prop Owen Franks for a late and high tackle in Giteau.

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