Canterbury Crusaders’ rookie flyhalf Tom Taylor scored all of his team’s points as the seven-time champions brought an end to the Stormers perfect record, the only one in Super Rugby this year, with a 31-24 victory on Saturday.
Two sides packed with All Blacks and Springboks made for a contest of the highest quality at Christchurch Stadium but it was 23-year-old student Taylor’s try and 26 points from a perfect display of kicking that proved decisive.
Joe Pietersen kicked a penalty well after the siren to give the Stormers a bonus point that will give them at least with a share of the lead in the South African conference despite their first defeat in seven matches this year.
With Dan Carter being played out of position at inside centre the Crusaders backline had an unusual look about it as it came up against what is traditionally the meanest defence in the competition.
The South Africans showed that they had qualities aplenty in attack too, though, with an opportunist try from centre Juan de Jongh and a brilliant team effort finished off by winger Bryan Habana.
It was Taylor who got the first try, however, when the Crusaders put together an attack of dazzling simplicity from a turnover in the 13th minute.
Straight running and quick hands got the ball out to hooker Corey Flynn on the wing and his pass inside gave Taylor a clear run to the line.
Taylor, the son of All Black Warwick Taylor, added the extra points but the Stormers charged back with a try of their own seven minutes later when de Jongh hacked on a grounded pass from Carter and won a footrace to recover the ball and score.
The Crusaders managed to see out Wyatt Crockett’s 10 minutes in the sin bin for a high tackle around the halftime break and still emerge with a 22-16 lead as Taylor continued to punish all Stormers’ infractions.
The Cape Town-based outfit ramped up the tempo considerably around the hour mark and phase after phase of pressure drew its reward when Dewaldt Duvenage’s clever crosskick was gathered by Habana for the Springbok flyer’s 51st Super Rugby try.
Pietersen missed the conversion and a chance for the Stormers to edge ahead, though, and a yellow card for flanker Rynhardt Elstadt, also for a high tackle, combined with Taylor’s sixth penalty gave the home side daylight at 25-21.
Two more Taylor penalties secured a fourth win in seven matches for the Crusaders and made up in some part for the disappointment of falling to a narrow defeat to the Bulls in South Africa last week. — Reuters