GARETH DUNCAN watched flyhalf Tom Taylor convert five penalties to give the Crusaders a 15-11 win over the Reds in Christchurch.
While Sunday is a day of rest for many, the Crusaders and Reds faced off in physical, close contest. Both teams delivered strong defensive performances in the afternoon brawl, but in the end, the Reds’ ill-discipline proved costly.
The Crusaders capitalised with their superior scrum and smarter approach to the breakdown battle, which saw the Reds concede several penalties in kickable areas. Taylor stepped up and slotted five of his six goal attempts in an impressive kicking display. Two of his three-pointers sailed over during the final 10 minutes of the game and sealed the win.
In the opening moments of the match, the Reds got off to the perfect start as hooker James Hanson crossed the chalk in the first minute of play. Both teams were defensively strong thereafter, but the Crusaders managed to edge ahead through two Taylor penalties.
The visitors had the opportunity to secure the lead, but inside centre Mike Harris missed two goal attempts in the first stanza (a conversion and penalty), which saw the Reds trail 6-5 at half-time.
The kicking contest continued in the second 40 as Taylor and Harris traded a penalty each. Then the Crusaders suffered a massive blow in the 60th minute.
The Reds found space down the left touchline and their attack surged into the hosts’ territory. In an attempt to force play in to touch, reserve prop Wyatt Crockett dived into scrumhalf Will Genia without any arms. His challenge was late and deemed dangerous, and the front rower was sent to the sin bin.
Harris converted the resulting penalty, giving the Reds an 11-9 lead, but they couldn’t add any more points with their one-man advantage.
When restored to 15 men, the Crusaders built momentum and won the ascendancy up front. The Reds leaked two penalties in their red zone at the death – one at the breakdown, while reserve wing Rod Davies was isolated after poor decision to run the ball and was penalised for holding on. Taylor did his job with the boot and the Crusaders clinched their fourth consecutive victory.