Crusaders produce thrilling second-half comeback against Waratahs
By Ben Hampshire. Last Updated: 31/05/13 5:31pm
The Crusaders completed a sensational second-half comeback to beat the Waratahs 23-22 in a fiercely contested encounter in Christchurch on Friday.
The Australian side took the lead in the fifth minute when Brendan McKibbin slotted home a penalty with the Crusaders defence buckling under early pressure.
With the majority of possession in their favour, the Waratahs continued to attack the Crusaders line before 17 phases of play culminated with Cam Crawford slipping through the lines to score the opening try of the match.
Dan Carter got the Crusaders on the board with a three-pointer before their defence was broken once again. Peter Betham left three Crusaders in his wake as he raced through to touch down a second Waratahs try and extend the lead.
As the half-time siren approached the Crusaders began to hit their stride and were duly rewarded two minutes before the interval when Corey Flynn twisted his way across the line to reduce the deficit. Carter went on to add the conversion to put the Crusaders within touching distance at 15-10 behind at the interval.
The Crusaders struggled to retain possession after the break with the Waratahs turning the ball over as Dave Dennis broke away to find Bernard Foley who raced home before McKibbin's conversion restored a 12-point advantage for the visitors.
A line-out midway through the second period allowed the Crusaders back into the game as they drove over the Waratahs line with Matt Todd eventually being awarded the try. Carter's conversion reduced the gap to just five before the fly-half added a further three points when a faltering Waratahs defence were deemed offside by referee Glen Jackson.
Carter completed the Crusaders comeback with just seven minutes to play when he successfully kicked a 50-metre penalty as the hosts took the lead for the first time in the match. With seconds left on the clock the Waratahs squandered any chance of redemption when Berrick Barnes' kick sailed wide.
Victory sees the Crusaders elevated into the top four of the Super Rugby standings whiles the Waratahs remain eighth, three points adrift of the play-off places.