The Crusaders marched imperiously into the Final of the 2008 Super 14 by thrashing the Hurricanes 33-22 in the first semifinal played at the AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday.
After an unpromising build-up the Crusaders were at their proficient best as they blew the Hurricanes off the park to reach their ninth Super Rugby Final — the scoreline flattering the Hurricanes as they scored two converted tries in the last two minutes of the game after being 33-8 down and thoroughly beaten.
Dan Retief writes for Superrugby that for the Crusaders it was a victory for an efficient team pulling off the tactics of coach Robbie Deans as the Hurricanes were constantly exposed by the high kick down the middle of the field — their positional play leaving much to be desired while their kicking out of hand was equally poor as they constantly gave the Crusaders opportunities to counter-attack.
The Crusaders won an overwhelming share of possession and used it resourcefully to set up camp in the red zone and simply strangle the life out of the Hurricanes’ challenge.
The Canes had received a big boost when Zac Guildford charged down a clearance by Dan Carter to follow up and score the first try of the match in the second minute but after that, but for the last few seconds, there was only one team in it as the relentless red tide crashed on the shores of the Hurricanes’ goal line.
The Crusaders were overwhelmingly dominant as Carter got them moving with pressure-induced penalties and the only misgiving was that they failed to convert their ascendancy into a try.
But that was rectified just before the break as fullback Leon MacDonald broke sharply after a long build-up to cross at the posts and the ‘Saders went to the break 13-8 up.
Deans instructed his men to “keep working” and that is exactly what they did as they got greater numbers to the breakdowns to either set their own phases or turn over the Hurricanes’ ball and soon the scoreboard was moving and the game was effectively won.
MacDonald sniped up from the back to crash over for his second try at the posts, Carter slotted a penalty and when Kieran Read was thrust over in a churning maul in the 67th minute the score jumped to 30-8 and that was it as far as the ‘Canes were concerned.
Carter, in a seven out of seven kicking performance, added another penalty and this was the signal for Deans to start moving his focus to next week’s Final (which will now be in Christchurch) by starting to clear his bench — providing stalwart Reuben Thorne with his 128th Super Rugby cap and the record for a New Zealand player.
However, the intensity also went out of the Crusaders play and Jeremy Thrush got a try by charging down a Stephen Brett clearance and Neemia Tialata the last of the match after a strong run by Corey Jane had carried play up to the ‘Saders line where they converted a tapped penalty into a try.
Crusaders (13) 33: Tries by Leon MacDonald (38 min), MacDonald (53 min), Kieran Read (66 min). Dan Carter kicked three conversions and four penalties.
Hurricanes (8) 22: Tries by Zac Guildford (2 min), Jeremy Thrush (78 min), Neemia Tialata (81 min). Piri Weepu kicked a penalty, Jimmy Gopperth a conversion and Jerry Collins a conversion.Tweet