Crusaders set for second
Published 12/07/2014 | 11:13
The Crusaders all-but sealed second spot in the Super Rugby standings on Saturday with a convincing 34-8 bonus-point victory over rivals the Highlanders.
Matt Todd grabbed two of their four tries, while Dan Carter booted 14 points to ensure the Christchurch side will also finish atop the New Zealand Conference.
The Crusaders had won four of their last five Super Rugby meetings with the Highlanders and they made another promising start here when Carter claimed their first points with a fourth-minute penalty.
The New Zealand fly-half slotted another kick after 16 minutes, but Hayden Parker was successful with a penalty of his own moments later to get the Highlanders off the mark.
However, the hosts began to pick up the pace around the half-hour mark and two more penalties for Carter gave them a 12-3 advantage and the chance to take a stranglehold on the match.
And it was a chance they did not pass up with Todd driving over shortly before the half-time siren for the game's first try, although Carter was unable to add the extras.
With the 17-3 scoreline in their favour, the Crusaders turned up the heat even more after the interval and Todd found himself crossing the line again four minutes into the second half with Carter also successful with the conversion.
And the Highlanders defence succumbed again within minutes when captain Kieran Read played in Nemani Nadolo for the winger to dart over and hand the hosts a healthy 29-3 cushion.
Despite seeing the game running away from them, the Highlanders continued to probe their opponents and eventually broke through what had so far been a solid back-line when a quick tap penalty five metres out set up Richard Buckman to dot down in the corner.
Lima Sopoaga saw his conversion attempt miss by inches, however, and the Crusaders compounded a miserable evening with a fourth and final try from Corey Flynn 10 minutes from time to complete a resounding win.