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24 May 2008 08:49
Fullback Leon MacDonald scored two tries as the Canterbury Crusaders booked a place in the Super 14 rugby final for the 10th time with a 33-22 win over the Wellington Hurricanes on Saturday.
MacDonald’s tries either side of halftime rewarded massive advantages of territory and possession and kept the Crusaders on target for their seventh championship title since Super rugby was inaugurated in 1996.
All Blacks flyhalf Daniel Carter kicked seven goals from seven attempts—three conversions and four penalties for 18 points—to help secure a fifth home final for Canterbury.
Wellington scored a try after only two minutes when winger Zac Guildford charged down a Carter clearing kick, falling on the ball over the goalline.
Penalties by Carter in the fourth and 14th minutes retrieved the lead for Canterbury, and the Crusaders attacked relentlessly only for Wellington, on a rare forward raid, to go back ahead with a goal to Piri Weepu.
Canterbury eventually broke down a determined Hurricanes defense in the 37th minute when MacDonald crossed and the Crusaders led 13-8 at halftime.
McDonald touched down again in the 12th minute of the second half and that signalled the end of Wellington’s resistance.
“It’s never easy against the Hurricanes but this performance was a big step up on the last few weeks,” Crusaders captain Richie McCaw said. “We set the attitude in defence and when the chances came we were able to capitalise on them.
“It was a pretty even game but scoring that try immediately after halftime made all the difference.”
Canterbury had 84% of territory and 63% of possession in the first half and finished with 76% and 61% respectively.
Second half tries to MacDonald and flanker Kieran Read gave Canterbury a match-winning 33-8 lead before Wellington got two tries in the last three minutes to make the scoreline more respectable.
Those tries went to lock Jeremy Thrush and All Blacks prop Neemia Tialata—his first in Super 14 rugby.
“We spent pretty much all of the first half on defense and whenever we got our hands on the ball we didn’t use it wisely,” said Hurricanes stand-in captain Andrew Hore.
“When you have to defend for 60 minutes out of 80 minutes in any match, your chances of winning aren’t very high.”
Hore took over from regular captain Rodney So’oialo who was forced to pull out of the match Saturday with a rib injury.
Canterbury’s opponent in the final was to be determined by Saturday’s later semifinal between New South Wales and the Sharks. - Sapa-AP
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