Highlanders upset Crusaders in Super rugby - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Highlanders upset Crusaders in Super rugby

23/04/2011 07:32:41 PM Comments (0)

The Highlanders have continued their Super 15 rugby resurgence with the prized scalp of the Crusaders in a sterling 26-18 victory at Nelson's Trafalgar Park.

The hosts threw plenty at them in the second half, including introducing regular starters Sonny Bill Williams and Sean Maitland to the backline after starts on the bench, but the Highlanders defence stood up to the task.

The win, their seventh from nine matches, takes the Highlanders to 34 points, one behind the Crusaders and five adrift of the New Zealand conference-leading Blues, who are also atop the overall standings.

The Crusaders were missing key players such as All Blacks Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read but they could have few excuses, outplayed across the park by a Highlanders team which impressed in the forward exchanges and with some uncompromising defence.

The Highlanders, 44-13 losers against the Crusaders in Dunedin earlier this season, made the worst possible start with Crusaders pivot Matt Berquist landing a 50m penalty after just a minute.

Tony Brown replied with a penalty of his own before the Crusaders struck the first significant blow of the evening, fullback Israel Dagg making a break down the blindside before drawing his opposite, Robbie Robinson, and sending left wing Zac Guildford on a clear run to the line.

The Highlanders were rewarded for their ball-in-hand approach when wing Sione Piutau finished off a neat scrum move, which twice featured former Crusaders No.8 Nasi Manu.

Berquist pushed the gap out to five points with a wind-assisted 45m dropped goal but the Highlanders took a 15-13 lead into the half-time break after wing James Paterson broke free down the left flank and made light work of a weak attempted tackle from Dagg to score in the corner.

In a near mirror image of the opening to the first half, Berquist botched the second half restart and the Highlanders made them pay.

With numbers out wide Brown showed all his experience in astutely assessing the situation before sending a pin-point cross kick to Paterson, who only had to catch the ball and fall over the line for his second and the Highlanders' third try of the match.

The Crusaders hammered away at the visitors but they were unable to make traction, at least until inside centre Adam Whitelock swooped on a loose pass in midfield to sprint 50m and score unopposed in the corner.

That brought the Crusaders to within two points at 18-20 with time on their side but Brown was gifted two simple penalties in quick succession and the southerners expertly used the wind to protect their lead and strangle the previous New Zealand conference leaders.

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