Crusaders crush Sharks in second-half blitz

The Crusaders got their Super 14 campaign back on track on Friday after steamrolling the Sharks in the second half to win 35-6.

After their shock loss to the Reds in Brisbane last week, the Crusaders built on a sturdy first-half defensive effort to score 25 unanswered points in the second spell after taking a narrow 10-6 lead into the break.

“Our defence really set the tone for us out there. There were some great hits coming up from the boys and they set it up for us,” Crusaders captain Kieran Read said afterwards.

Winger Zac Guildford scored a try in each half for the New Zealanders, replacements Adam Whitelock and Quentin MacDonald added one each in the second spell, and flyhalf Dan Carter kicked three penalties and three conversions.

Sharks halfback Ryan Kockott kicked two long-range penalties to keep the visitors in touch in the first half, but they were not nearly enough to prevent the South Africans slumping to their third straight loss.

The Sharks laid down the challenge after just a minute when Kockott landed a penalty from inside his own half after Crusaders lock Brad Thorn was penalised for a dangerous tackle.

They had the best of the opening 10 minutes, forcing two turnovers at the breakdown and snatching two lineouts against the throw.

But the Crusaders’ class could not be denied after flanker George Whitelock was dragged down just short of the line after he broke downfield midway through the spell.

From the breakdown the ball went wide to Guildford, who neatly stepped inside the defensive line for a try converted by Carter.

The Sharks were willing in the second spell, but went scoreless as the Crusaders increasingly dominated possession and territory to run in three tries and another 10 points from Carter’s boot.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw came on as a replacement for Read after 51 minutes in his first appearance for the Crusaders this season.

McCaw originally wasn’t due to return until next week, but he was rushed back after the shock defeat to the Reds, and his reappearance coincided with the Crusaders putting the Sharks to the sword.—AFP

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