Another late Crusaders burst seals key win

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Lynn McConnell     02 Apr 2017     Getty Images

It came from a stunning sideline break by replacement wing Manasa Mataele. He broke three tackles then passed outside to another replacement, lock Luke Romano, who looked every inch a three-quarter running down the line before finding halfback substitute Bryn Hall in support for the try.

It knocked the Waratahs out of contention and there was the icing of a bonus point try four minutes later following a lineout penalty from a ruck infringement by home flanker and skipper Michael Hooper. In the subsequent play it was hooker Ben Funnell who went over under the posts to score.

Unbeaten this season from six starts, the Crusaders added the statistical credit of being the first New Zealand team to achieve 10 consecutive wins over Australian opponents and to highlight the dominance of New Zealand teams in the competition this year.

Another strong start by the Crusaders had them out to a 12-0 lead after as many minutes thanks to tries to wing George Bridge and fullback David Havili, who had an outstanding attacking game, both from lineout wins.

Hooper, who had a terrific clash in the loose with another key performer flanker Matt Todd throughout the evening, scored the first of the Waratahs try from a scrum play just out from the Crusaders' line.
But an extraordinary phase of play initiated by a Crusaders counter-attack saw the ball lost and moved back downfield by the Waratahs before they turned the ball over and it was returned downfield with Havili, hooker Codie Taylor, lock Scott Barrett, No.8 Whetu Douglas who provided the ball for centre Tim Bateman to score wide out.

The Waratahs refused to lie down and consecutive tries in the 48th and 51st minutes between halfback Jake Gordon, on a well-worked set-piece move from a lineout, and replacement wing Taqele Naiyaravoro after some rare poor defensive work by the Crusaders brought the game alive.

While Waratahs wing Reece Robinson was able to land a late penalty goal which saw the Crusaders go to the half-time break leading 19-10.

Then, in the perfect start to the second half Havili built on an earlier breakout inspired by lock Sam Whitelock to work with Todd who fed Bateman in for his second.

There were moments when the Crusaders suffered lapses which allowed the Waratahs to penalise them, but at the key moments the defence proved too consistent and, especially when the pressure went on in the final quarter, they were far too strong for the home side.

The Crusaders have a week off with the bye as their reward for an impressive starting run to the season.

Scorers: Waratahs 22 (Michael Hooper, Jake Gordon, Taqele Naiyaravoro tries; Reece Robinson 2 con, pen) Crusaders 41 (George Bridge, David Havili, Tim Bateman 2, Bryn Hall, Ben Funnell tries; Mitchell Hunt 3 con, pen; Marty McKenzie con). HT: 10-19