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Crusaders outclass Canes in Super Rugby

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 13/05/2017 Angelo Risso

The Crusaders have taken a giant step in their quest to claim top spot in Super Rugby's New Zealand conference with a defensively flawless 20-12 victory over the Hurricanes in Christchurch.

Keeping the defending champions tryless for the first time since 2014, the Crusaders put on a clinic at the set-piece and nabbed the only five-pointer of the game, via openside Matt Todd, off the back of a maul.

They then proceeded to shut out the Hurricanes with frighteningly high line speed in defence, nullifying the potency of Beauden Barrett and company, and through the go-forward of an all-Test tight five.

The still-unbeaten Crusaders made 416 metres with the ball, 130 more than their opponents, and made more carries, mauls and successful rucks.

They now sit eight points clear of the Chiefs in the Kiwi conference, and four points clear of the Lions in the overall standings after 111 straight wins.

The Hurricanes, suffering their first loss in seven games, remain third in their conference.

"We knew it was going to take a lot of effort and the boys showed a lot of heart today," Crusaders vice-captain Ryan Crotty said.

"We didn't let them get anything going."

In what was a furious opening stanza, the sides traded nothing but three-pointers as they battered into each other relentlessly.

The Crusaders had the clear upper hand at the set-piece, forcing penalties out of the Canes' scrum and lineout, while the men from the Kiwi capital found their trademark running rugby stifled by slippery conditions.

Occasional chances did fall to both teams - the Crusaders' Seta Tamanivalu dropped a Crotty cross-field kick over the line, while a Jeff Toomaga-Allen intercept for the Hurricanes was pulled up just short.

Yet, despite all their huffing and puffing, neither side could execute the inch-perfect play necessary to unlock their opponent.

Level at 9-9, the second half continued in a similarly robust fashion - the Crusaders probing, the Hurricanes scrambling admirably.

Hurricanes young gun Jordie Barrett batted down a cut-out pass with George Bridge lurking behind him, TJ Perenara was forced to thump clear on his line, and only millimetres prevented Joe Moody from opening the scoring.

But the pressure eventually paid off and in the most Crusaders-esque way possible, in the 51st minute.

Handed an attacking lineout, they threw short and bulldozed towards the line via a driving maul, with Todd planting the ball over the try line.

The sides once again swapped penalty goals after Richie Mo'unga's failed try conversion, keeping things tight, until some tidy Crotty work at the breakdown earned the Crusaders a chance to kick their way home.

Mo'unga, so clinical in recent weeks, duly slotted over.

"It's no detriment to the boys, they played well," Perenara said.

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