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Match Review – Highlanders too strong for Crusaders

Written by Gwyn Pratley (Hertford Highlander)

Posted in :All Blacks, In the news, RWC 2011, Super 14, Super Rugby on 23 Apr 2011 at 14:13
Tagged with : , , , , , , ,

All reports that the Highlanders scored one of the biggest upsets of the Super Rugby competition when beating the Crusaders, 26-18, in their 10th round clash in Nelson on Saturday night.

The Crusaders, seeking their seventh straight win and needing it to displace the Blues at the top of the New Zealand Conference table, fielded a second string team and it failed to function, the loose forwards without captain Kieran Read being outmuscled and outplayed.

By virtue of its win, the Highlanders closed to a point of the second-placed Crusaders in the New Zealand zone and just five adrift of the top team, the Blues, who they play in a mouth-watering clash in Dunedin next week.

It was a dreadful start by the Highlanders, Tony Brown kicking the ball out on the full, the scrum conceding a penalty from the resulting scrum on halfway and Matt Berquist slotting the 50m kick.

Brown, however, equalised with a simple penalty after seven minutes when Crusaders prop Wyatt Crockett infringed. The first try came after 14 minutes and it was by the Crusaders. Quick ruck ball inside their own 22m was spread wide, fullback Israel Dagg making the breach and wing Zac Guildford sprinting away to score a try converted by Berquist.

But a bad fumble near his line by prop Owen Franks gifted the Highlanders their first try in the 21st minute, wing Siale Piutau the benefactor after the loose forward trio all played their part from an attacking scrum. Brown’s conversion went wide off the upright.

Berquist extended the Crusaders lead to five points with a well-taken dropped goal after 23 minutes at which time the Crusaders lost captain and halfback Andy Ellis with a hand injury and All Blacks lock Brad Thorn five minutes later.

More problems occurred for the Crusaders when Highlanders right wing James Paterson was given room on the blindside and went around Dagg to score, Brown’s sideline conversion into the breeze giving his team the lead, 15-13.

Brown and Berquist both missed angled penalty goals in the last 10 minutes, but it was the Highlanders who finished the half better, stringing passes together and asking questions of the defence. The visitors were happy to go to half-time two points ahead.

Paterson had his second try almost from the restart which Berquist kicked out on the full. A pin-point kick to the corner by Brown found an unmarked Paterson, Brown’s conversion just going wide.

Guildford went close to scoring a spectacular try after chasing a long kick, but Robbie Robinson did well to bundle him out in the corner.

A loose pass by Highlanders captain Jamie Mackintosh was pounced on by Adam Whitelock who just had the pace to run 45m and score in the corner in the 56th minute. Berquist missed the conversion but the deficit was down to two points.

On the hour Brown kicked a simple penalty goal and he landed another three minutes later as the Highlanders went to a 26-18 lead after 63 minutes. The Highlanders defended like demons as the Crusaders attacked desperately as the match moved into the last 10 minutes.

A knock-on by All Blacks replacement Sonny Bill Williams in the last minute as the Crusaders looked for a bonus point for finishing within seven points summed up a night that belonged to the Highlanders.

Crusaders 18 (Zac Guildford, Adam Whitelock tries; Matt Berquist con, pen, dropped goal)
Highlanders 26 (James Paterson 2, Siale Piutau tries; Tony Brown con, 3 pen). HT: 13-15


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