The Crusaders got a 29-24 bonus-point win over the Force in a thrilling match in Perth to go top of the Super 14 log.
This was the best game of the weekend, and possibly the entire competition so far, as the Saders scored 17 unanswered points in the second stanza after being down 12-24 early in the half. Both teams were willing to run the ball at every opportunity and they displayed the necessary skills to go with this intent. The sides repeatedly opted for the quick-tap from free-kicks instead of the scrum and both deservedly got the bonus-point for four tries in a match played in 30 degree heat.
The match was billed as the battle of the flyhalves – Matt Giteau versus Dan Carter and despite the result Giteau seemed to win this contest, always being at the forefront of any Force attack, while Carter had a poor day with the boot. The Force loose-forwards dominated the breakdown in the opening half, but as the game wore on Richie McCaw and Mose Tuialii became especially prominent and were instrumental in the Saders comeback.
Zimbabwean-born Force flanker David Pocock scored the opening try after his team took the ball through eight phases and he dived in at the right-hand corner.
The Saders struck right back when flyhalf Carter beat two defenders from a scrum and strolled over under the poles. Saders prop Greg Somerville scored next to extend the lead to 12-5 when he drove over from close range, after eighthman Tuialii set up the platform with good run off a five-meter scrum.
Force centre Ryan Cross scored the try to make the scores level, and Eighthman Richard Brown took the Force ahead with a brilliant counter-attacking try when they moved the ball quickly from point of contact.
The Crusaders came up much quicker on defence in the second half, but they couldn’t stop the bonus-point try from centre Scott Staniforth 10 minutes into the half.
The Saders upped the intensity however and hit back with two tries in as many minutes – firstly lock Ali Williams scoring from quick-tap five meters out. From the kick off, scrumhalf Andy Ellis hit the blindside with Tuialii and Ellis got the ball back to score a 60m bonus-point try. The Saders just got stronger and stronger as the match went on, and centre Casey Laulala scored the final try.
The Force had a final attacking surge into the Crusaders 22, but couldn’t get the try to draw or win the game.
Force – tries: Pocock, Cross, Brown, Staniforth. conversions: Giteau (2)
Crusaders – tries: Carter, Somerville, Williams, Ellis, Laulala. conversions: Carter (2)
by Grant Ball