Crusaders edge Reds in thriller at Jade Stadium


Saturday, February 10, 2007    Photosport

The defending champions trailed by a point with eight minutes remaining but two late tries enabled them to achieve their first win of the season after last week's loss to the Blues.

The Crusaders scored five tries to two but they had to work extremely hard against a committed Reds pack led by David Croft, Hugh McMenamin and James Horwill.

The Reds, who had beaten the Hurricanes 25-16 in Brisbane last week, were in the game until the final minutes but, in the end, they were even denied a bonus point.

Stephen Brett again stamped his class on the game for the Crusaders and his play-making ability was a decisive factor in the home side's win.

The Crusaders began strongly and scored first in the 14th minute, from an over-thrown lineout, flanker Johnny Leo'o grabbed the ball and made ground and, from the phase play, Brett ghosted through a gap to score. He converted his own try to make it 7-0.

Lloyd Johansson and Ben Tune combined in a sweeping Reds attack but the Crusaders countered and, from a penalty, Brett was wide from 30 metres and on the angle.

The Crusaders extended their lead right on 25 minutes when, after good lead-up work from Casey Laulala and Corey Flynn, lock Ross Filipo crashed over close to the posts and Brett converted to make it 14-0.

But the Reds were competitive and prop Greg Holmes then barged over for their first try five minutes before the break to reduce the deficit to 5-14.

The visitors continued to press and, when lock Kevin O'Neill was pinged for obstruction, Clinton Schifcofske kicked an angled penalty to make it 14-8 at halftime.

It was a fair reflection of the trend of play in which the defence of both teams had been more accurate than their attack.

The Reds went straight on to the attack in the second spell and, when the Crusaders infringed, Schifcofske kicked an easy penalty to narrow the gap to three points.

Three minutes later Schifcofske repeated the effort, from a wider angle, and the scores were level at 14-all.

The momentum was maintained shortly after as left wing Peter Hynes gathered in an ill-directed tactical kick by Rico Gear and raced 25m to the line.

Schifcofske's conversion glanced off the right upright but the Reds, at 19-14, were ahead for the first time.

But the Crusaders struck back after 17 minutes when, after putting the Reds' scrum under pressure and getting the penalty, they took a tap penalty and No 8 Mose Tuiali'i powered over for the try. Brett converted to make it 21-19.

The Reds got back into Crusaders' territory and, from 24 metres and in front, Schifcofske kicked his fourth penalty to regain the lead for the Reds, 22-21.

The Reds pounded at the Crusaders' defence with more than 20 phases but eventually they were penalised and the chance to put the game away was lost.

Eight minutes from the end the Crusaders made a decisive thrust from an attacking scrum with Tuiali'i making ground and combing with Leo'o, Jake Paringatai and Brett who sent Scott Hamilton over for a crucial try. Brett converted to make it 28-22.

Then, with time almost up, Brett unleashed a pint-point accurate cross-kick which substitute Brent Ward gathered to score the Crusaders' fifth try to clinch a hard-earned bonus-point win.

Crusaders 33 (Ross Filipo, Mose Tuiali'i, Scott Hamilton, Brent Ward 1 try, Stephen Brett 1 try, 4 con) Reds 22 (Greg Holmes, Peter Hynes 1 try, Clinton Schifcofske 4 pen)