Crusaders edge out Western Force in pre-season thrillerBy Justin Chadwick
January 24, 2009 DEFENDING Super 14 champions the Crusaders started life after Robbie Deans and Dan Carter in winning fashion, overcoming a 14-point deficit to post a thrilling 24-19 pre-season victory over Western Force in Perth on Friday night.
In front of a sell-out crowd of almost 18,000, Force conceded the first try of the match but looked on course for victory when they posted three unanswered tries to race out to a 19-5 lead inside 35 minutes.
But Crusaders hit back with a vengeance, notching three unanswered tries of their own before holding off a determined Force outfit in a frantic final 10 minutes to secure the win.
"It was a very strong start, we looked highly motivated,'' Force coach John Mitchell said.
"The pleasing thing was that there was really good understanding in how we worked together. We got a good workout.
"Under fatigue at times our decisions could be better but in saying that the only way you learn well is through coping with greater resistance and we've been able to grow our game as a result of playing against the Crusaders because they brought a far greater resistance as the game wore on.''
Force entered the match without Australia stars Nathan Sharpe, Matt Giteau, Ryan Cross and James O'Connor, while Crusaders New Zealand contingent of Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Corey Flynn, Ben Franks, Brad Thorn and Ross Filipo were also rested.
Fans were barely in their seats when some slack Force defence allowed Crusaders to post the first try of the match after just 65 seconds.
Flanker George Whitelock was the lucky recipient of the Force's sloppy marking, barging over for the easiest of tries after being left unguarded at the back of a Crusader line-out.
Force were awarded a penalty try in the 12th minute when Drew Mitchell was impeded as he jumped to grab a Scott Daruda chip, and Force notched their second try of the match eight minutes later when a neat pass from Daruda released Josh Tatupu into space.
The home side extended their lead to 19-5 in the 34th minute when a powerful rolling maul saw Luke Holmes cross over but Crusaders hit back through a second try to Whitelock.
Tempers flared in the 48th minute when Crusaders scrum-half Andy Ellis took a swing that made a glancing connection to the face of Force lock David Pusey. and Crusaders closed the gap to two points when winger Jared Payne finished of a sweeping move from the visitors.
Crusaders winger Kade Poki scored the winning try in the 64th minute when he crossed over in the corner but the visitors were made to work hard to hold their lead, with the tiring Force mounting numerous attacks in the dying minutes.http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,8659,24955920-5002381,00.html