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Crusaders battle to win

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Berrick Barnes

Berrick Barnes

Berrick Barnes

The NSW Waratahs answered some stinging criticism from disgruntled fans with an electrifying first half to set up a solid 29-12 bonus-point defeat of the Lions at the Sydney Football Stadium.

Despite winning their previous two matches and remaining well in the hunt for the all-important top six leading into the game, the Tahs were forced to answer to a group of supporters at an official Fan Forum during the week, with the side's perceived 'boring' style of play at the forefront of debate.

The confronting exercise appeared to pay dividends in the opening 40 minutes as Chris Hickey's men played a brand of rugby that would undoubtedly help crowds swell back to the exceptional numbers of 2002.

The Tahs raced in five well-executed tries to take a commanding 29-5 lead into the break, but clearly took their foot off the gas in a dour second-stanza, failing to add another point against a Lions side that never stopped trying.

Prop Sekope Kepu and hard-working flanker Chris Alcock were the stand-out performers for the winners, while backs Kurtley Beale, Berrick Barnes and Ryan Cross all produced moments of quality in the first half. The win pushes the Waratahs back into the top six and keeps them mathematically in the hunt for pole position in the Australian conference.

A strong second-half performance, when the scrum became dominant, took the Crusaders to a 25-19 Super 15 victory over the Chiefs at McLean Park.

It was hardly vintage Crusaders rugby, especially in an error-riddled first half which ended at 6-6, but the seven-times Super champions moved up a gear in the second half and spent most of that 40 minutes inside Chiefs territory.

The Chiefs picked up a bonus point with their only try after the final siren sounded through Liam Messam, although it looked hard to justify. The Crusaders were also held to just one try - scored by Luke Romano - but Dan Carter found his top form after missing an easy drop-goal attempt early on and went on to contribute 20 points with his boot.

The ACT Brumbies withstood a Western Force onslaught to draw a mistake-riddled Super 15 match 13-13 at nib Stadium in Perth, while the high-powered Cheetahs set a new try-scoring record as they cruised to a 41-21 victory over the Rebels to move level on points with the third-placed Stormers.

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