JOHANNESBURG, April 1 (ANA) – The Crusaders displayed the necessary class and composure to claim an important 14-8 Super Rugby win over the Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday afternoon.
In what was a replay of last year’s Super Rugby final, the Crusaders again emerged victorious as they outscored the Lions 14 points to three in a decisive second half where the hosts were simply unable to get any rhythm to their play.
For the Lions, this was a third loss in four games, and a season that started with such promise appears to remain on a steady decline.
After a tense start to the clash, it was the Lions who struck first in the 14th minute after a beautiful no-look pass from Malcolm Marx put Madosh Tambwe away to score in the corner, but there would be little else to celebrate from there.
The Crusaders gradually worked their way into the contest and began to look threatening, but on two occasions Crusaders flyhalf Mitchell Hunt was guilty of throwing a forward pass to winger George Bridge when a try looked there for the taking.
It meant that the Lions were able to go into the break with a 5-0 lead, with their strong scrum and impressive work at the breakdown ensuring that the Crusaders couldn’t quite get their game going despite enjoying as much as 63 percent of possession in the first half.
However, the Crusaders finally received some reward when patient build-up play eventually saw Sam Whitelock barge over in the corner soon after the restart, while an excellent conversion from Mitchell Hunt put the visitors into a 7-5 lead.
It appeared to spark a momentum shift as the Crusaders would quickly double their advantage as centre Jack Goodhue showed great strength to barge over just minutes later.
That opened up a handy 14-5 buffer for the Saders at the hour mark, and although the result appeared to have been secured when David Havili went over to score in the 64th minute, a player was seen to have put his foot in touch during the build-up to the try.
It could have proved costly when Elton Jantjies slotted a late penalty to cut the deficit to six points, but the Lions never looked likely to get into a position to score the match-winning try.
Instead, the Crusaders closed out a win that keep their campaign well on track.
Scorers: Lions 8 (5): Try: Madosh Tambwe. Penalty: Elton Jantjies.
Crusaders 14 (0): Tries: Sam Whitelock, Jack Goodhue. Conversions: Mitchell Hunt (2).