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31 May 2008 12:36
The Canterbury Crusaders won the Super 14 title on Saturday with a 20-12 victory over the New South Wales Waratahs in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Trailing by a point at half-time, the Crusaders stormed home on the boot of All Black flyhalf Dan Carter, who kicked four penalties and a drop goal for a personal tally of 15 points.
The young Waratahs put in a brave performance but faltered on the big stage, allowing the experienced Crusaders to dominate and capture their seventh Super title.
The Crusaders sent coach Robbie Deans and former captain Reuben Thorne out on a winning note and maintained their record of never having lost a play-off game on home soil.
The Waratahs scored two tries to Canterbury’s one, but the Crusaders always looked likely to overhaul the visitors, and their swarming defence and relentless attacking pressure proved too much to handle.
“Towards the end of the round robin [our defence] was letting us down,” captain Richie McCaw said.
“So last week [in the semifinal] we took a step up and tonight the hits that were going in were just outstanding.”
The Crusaders got off to a good start and opened the scoring with a Carter penalty. However, the Waratahs struck back almost immediately when flyhalf Kurtley Beale put in a pinpoint cross-kick for winger Lachlan Turner, who leapt high above Carter to gather the ball and score.
Phil Waugh then sparked an attacking raid with an intercept that ended with Turner kicking ahead and outsprinting Andrew Ellis to touch down again.
Beale kicked the conversion to give the Waratahs a surprise 12-3 lead.
Carter narrowed the gap to 12-6 with another penalty, then just before half-time the Crusaders launched a sweeping attack, with Mose Tuiali’i crashing over in the corner to make it a one-point game at the break.
McCaw said the Crusaders never panicked despite being down at half-time.
“We felt like we were on top—we played a lot of the rugby,” he said.
“We knew that if we could keep our composure at the start of the second half the points would come, and we kept our composure and got what we needed.”
Carter put the Crusaders in front five minutes after half-time with a third penalty to make it 14-12, and when front-rower Wyatt Crockett crossed they looked to be taking control.
However, the assistant referee had spotted some foul play from Canterbury lock Brad Thorn and referee Mark Lawrence cancelled the try and sent Thorn from the field for 10 minutes.
The Waratahs failed to take advantage of the extra man and were made to pay when Carter slotted a drop goal to put the Crusaders into a 17-12 lead.—Reuters
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