Rugby: Taylor leads Crusaders to victory

Tom Taylor of the Crusaders scores a try. Photo / Getty Images
Tom Taylor of the Crusaders scores a try. Photo / Getty Images

Crusaders 31
Stormers 24

You have to nod admiringly in the direction of Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder. Most thought his decision to start the world's best first five-eighths, Dan Carter, at 12 to make way for Warwick Taylor's little boy Tom was eccentric at best and misguided at worst.

Not a bit of it. It was a master stroke and a masterly display by a young first five who impressed even more than the fact he scored all of the Crusaders' 31 points.

The theory was for Taylor to take over the goalkicking duties and some of the guidance responsibilities to ease the pressure on the returning All Black.

Carter was also described as feeling "a little tight in the groin" - which does not seem entirely out of court for a man who models underwear.

Carter's class was obvious in the first minute when a clever chip-and-almost-regather had the Stormers in trouble and had referee Chris Pollock seeing a knock-on when there wasn't one - the exact opposite problem referee Steve Walsh had in the Blues-Sharks clash on Friday night.

Carter also reeled off some telling kicks for position; part of the Crusaders' game plan.

But there was rustiness - a wobbly Carter pass under pressure saw Stormers centre Juan de Jongh kick ahead for a soft try. As it was seven years since Carter had worn the 12 shirt, it was possible to think then that Blackadder's move might prove to be a seven-year glitch.

However, it was Taylor who really caught the eye. He kicked for goal like a veteran and scored the opening try after a turnover by Ben Franks led to the Crusaders forwards Kieran Read and Corey Flynn throwing precision passes like they were backs. Taylor ghosted up to take the scoring pass just like his All Black dad used to do.

By halftime the Crusaders led 19-13, with all 19 points coming from Taylor and his 100 per cent kicking record.

The Stormers had lost giant lock Andries Bekker to a back injury and had tore-juggle their pack with more injuries. But they came back strongly in the second half, seeking to test the Crusaders' energy stores after the long trip back from their South African tour. The Stormers' clinical and efficient style was seen to good effect in their win over the Highlanders last week but the Crusaders played territory well and never let the Stormers settle into their rhythm.

However, they almost took the lead at 22-21 after a 30-phase build-up ended when halfback Dewaldt Duvenage poked a clever kick to the corner for Bryan Habana to score. Joe Pietersen missed the sideline conversion. Maybe that was justice as the move appeared to contain a knock-on which Pollock, like Walsh before him, didn't see.

Perhaps the key moment came when flanker Rynhardt Elstadt was sin-binned for a head-high tackle and Taylor potted the penalty like missing a pressure kick is a thing unheard of; then followed it with another.

At 28-21, the Stormers needed another try but the Crusaders' defence held firm and they ran the clock down with, fittingly, Taylor slotting his eighth penalty goal in a flawless kicking display after a period of Crusaders' pressure.

It was the end of the Stormers' six-game unbeaten streak but continued a run of outs to the Crusaders - to whom they have lost 11 of the last 13 matches they have played, including last year's semifinal clash.

CRUSADERS 31 (Tom Taylor try con 8 pens) bt STORMERS 24 (Juan De Jongh, Bryan Habana tries Joe Pietersen con Peter Grant 2, Pietersen 2 pens) at Christchurch Stadium. Referee: Chris Pollock.

- APNZ

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