Unbeaten: Sharks and Crusaders maintain 100% records

2008-03-10 00:00

Crusaders charge to lead Super 14

SYDNEY — Six-time champions Crusaders scored 17 unanswered points to overhaul Western Force and pip the Sharks to the outright lead in the Super 14 competition yesterday.

The unbeaten New Zealanders fought back from 12-24 down midway through the second half to deny the Perth-based Force 29-24 and leapfrog the Sharks at the top of the standings after four rounds.

The Sharks, last year’s finalists, had ended the Auckland Blues’ South African tour blitz with a 22-17 win on Saturday, to claim the tournament lead before the Crusaders’ five-try bonus point victory in Perth.

The Crusaders showed their championship qualities to climb off the canvas and win. They trailed 24-12 midway through the second half, but scored the last 17 points of the match to remain unbeaten in 2008 and claim top spot in the table.

It was a high quality encounter, with nine tries, as the momentum regularly switched between the sides.

The Sharks jumped away to a 19-3 half-time lead and staved off a second-half Blues’ recovery to also remain unbeaten, along with the Crusaders.

The Chiefs are with the Bulls on eight points after snatching a late, controversial 22-20 victory over the luckless Cheetahs in Hamilton. Australian referee Paul Marks awarded a crucial try to the Chiefs, even though the television match official could not see the ball grounded, while a second Chiefs try followed a forward pass.

The Stormers climbed off the bottom of the standings with a bonus-point 34-16 win over the struggling Queensland Reds in Brisbane.

The Sharks got away to a perfect start, with a try after 16 seconds to flanker Keegan Daniel, who scored again as the home team took a 16-point half-time lead.

The Sharks withstood fierce second-half pressure,to end the winning run of their New Zealand opponents, who had amassed 105 points in their two previous matches in South Africa.

“The team were outstanding in the first half only to fall asleep after the break. We must learn to put it together for 80 minutes,” Sharks’ skipper Johann Muller said.

The Stormers played enterprising rugby to come away with four tries in their third straight win in Brisbane, and the sixth win in their past 10 games in Australia.

The Stormers had been without a win in their opening three matches, but they produced adventurous attacking rugby to sink the Reds, who were coming off their dire 43-11 loss to the Brumbies the previous week.

Led by flanker Luke Watson, hooker Schalk Brits and fullback Conrad Jantjes, the Stormers ran the Queenslanders off their feet with their expansive attacking game and had three further tries disallowed by the video referee in the first half.

“We lost three on the trot and I’m elated with our first win,” skipper Jean De Villiers said.

“It’s a start and we can only improve as we approach the Chiefs in New Zealand next week.”

The Stormers will have Schalk Burger back from suspension.

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