Waratahs shock Crusaders to end unbeaten record run

Crusaders player Whetu Douglas (8) looks to pass the ball in the match between NSW Waratahs and Crusaders. Photo: Getty Images
Crusaders player Whetu Douglas (8) looks to pass the ball in the match between NSW Waratahs and Crusaders. Photo: Getty Images

The great Crusaders' undefeated run ended at the hands of the Waratahs, 20-12, in Sydney on Staurday night.

It finishes at 19 wins, a Super Rugby record, but in this most difficult of weeks they couldn't find the inspiration or, probably more accurately, skill level to consistently pressure a vastly improved Waratahs team.

The win is a coup for their coach Daryl Gibson, a former Crusaders player and assistant coach, but he might wish it had come under different circumstances.

A match which started with both teams – and coaches - standing in unity in the middle of the Sydney Cricket Ground continued with the Crusaders appearing as disconnected as they have ever been in their more than two years under Scott Robertson.

It perhaps wasn't surprising given the shock of the recent terror attack in their city – and the scrutiny on the side after the terrible events in Christchurch – and it almost seems churlish to point out their numerous flaws throughout the match, but they were very ordinary and deserved to be behind at the break and while their defence was better in the second half, their attack was very poor.

Missed tackles – a bad one in particular by the normally reliable No8 Whetukamokamo Douglas which allowed lock Jed Holloway to stroll over for the Waratahs' first try – dropped ball in the admittedly greasy conditions, and poor decisions in general, not helped by a rookie No10 in Brett Cameron having a difficult night, all contrived to stymie the normally reliable machine.

Their lineout was off and their scrum went in a similar direction, and with the injuries coming thick and fast the next few days before their next match against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday will be extremely important.

With Richie Mo'unga and Scott Barrett rested, and Owen Franks a late withdrawal due to a shoulder niggle, the Crusaders were down on experience, even allowing for the return of skipper Sam Whitelock.

They just weren't themselves, and while they replied to Cameron Clark's try with a sharp one for George Bridge after what appeared to be a forward pass by Codie Taylor, they struggled all night to build pressure on a good Waratahs defence due to their near constant errors and a lack of composure from Cameron in his third start at this level.

The Waratahs weren't immune from mistakes either but their early scoreboard advantage was crucial and they had a No10 in Bernard Foley who doesn't miss many off the tee.

Such were the mistakes coming from a team which strangely ran out in their alternate white strip rather than their traditional red and black, the visitors appeared a poorly rendered facsimile of their former selves. They really were that poor.

Their final try came via the speedy Will Jordan thanks to good work from Ryan Crotty, probably their best player, and Bridge. Almost fittingly, replacement Mitch Hunt missed the conversion which would have given them a bonus point.

Last year in Christchurch the Waratahs roared out to a 29-0 lead before the Crusaders came back to win, but there was to be no repeat on a rainy night in Sydney.

The defending champions, denied the chance for a win in Dunedin last weekend, lacked a spark all night and need to find it again quickly.

Waratahs 20 (Jed Holloway, Cameron Clark, Israel Folau tries; Bernard Foley con, pen)
Crusaders 12 (George Bridge, Will Jordan tries; Brett Cameron con)
Halftime: 15-7

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