Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams inspired the Crusaders to a 44-28 win over the Sharks in the historic Super Rugby game at Twickenham on last week.
In the first Super Rugby game played in the northern hemisphere, Carter scored 22 points including a try before limping off in the 62 minute and Williams showed European fans what they can expect in the World Cup displaying his full range of offloading and carrying skills.
Crusaders scored five tries to four from the Sharks for their fourth win of the campaign, and quelled a mini-revival from the South Africans in the second half when they came back from 34-10 down to reduce the gap to just nine points with half an hour left.
But the Crusaders could count the cost of the match with Carter and acting captain Keiran Read both failing to finish the game with Read only lasting until half-time before being injured.
A crowd of 35,094 helped raise fund for the Christchurch earthquake relief effort and the Crusaders treated them to a scintillating display of running rugby in a first half in which they ran in four tries after the Sharks had got over the line first then second row Willem Alberts scored from short range.
Carter and Williams were at the heart of most of the Crusaders’ attacking moves with a Williams offload and a Carter inside ball setting up Sean Maitland for his 17th try in Super Rugby.
Williams was the provider again on 21 minutes when his break and pass put Carter over under the posts and Israel Dagg rounded off a sweeping move and Carter’s touchline conversion put the Crusaders 27-10 up.
Carter built on the efforts of his forwards, who gave the Sharks a torrid time in the scrum, and Zac Guildford stretched their lead when he sidestepped Ryan Kankovski and evaded the tackle of Odwa Ndungane to put the Crusaders 24 points in front before the Sharks staged a comeback.
Fly-half Jacques-Louis Potgieter ran through some soft tackling just before the break and further scores from Ndungane and Alistair Hargreaves gave them hope of pulling off a remarkable comeback win.
With Carter off after 63 minutes, and Williams lucky to escape a yellow card for a shoulder charge, the Crusaders put the game to bed with Maitland’s second touchdown in the 66th minute.
The Sharks refused to give up and Keegan Daniel chased down opposite number George Whitelock to pull off a try-saving tackle two minutes from time when flanker Whitelock had the line in sight after a 50 metre gallop.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder warned his Super Rugby rivals his side can get even better,
“It was a fantastic first half but in the second half it was helter skelter rugby and I was very nervous watching as a coach,” said Blackadder.
“You can ease off mentally when you have game won and we didn’t have the urgency in the second half.
“I know what we are capable of and we can be better than we were in the second half. We need to keep working and get even better.”
Carter and Williams pulled the strings with Williams shining in only his fifth game of Super Rugby.
“Carter was world class. Williams has adapted so well to the game – he has got the potential to be anything. He is a threat and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near him defensively,” said Blackadder.
Sharks’ coach John Plumtree complimented the Crusaders’ win over his team,
“That Crusaders side are the benchmark for this competition. They are devastating in midfield and if you turn over possession they are brutal,” he said.
“Defensively we were a bit naive in the first 20 minutes. They scored 15 pretty soft points and you can’t let a side of that calibre score tries like that. But I was proud of the way we came back at them. If we had scored again we would have been right into them.”
by Buford Balony