Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Rugby: Sharks turn Crusaders' lack of discipline to advantage

Robbie Fruean proved a handful for the Crusaders against the Sharks. Photo / Getty Images
Robbie Fruean proved a handful for the Crusaders against the Sharks. Photo / Getty Images

Sharks 21
Crusaders 17

Ill discipline is the baggage the Crusaders need to discard before they meet the Force in Perth this weekend - a game for which they will welcome back Daniel Carter from paternity leave.

The All Black first five-eighths will join his side in Australia after missing the South African leg of the trip to be at the birth of his first child. His return is timely; not only will he offer a calming influence with his general play, he'll bring accurate goal-kicking that was missing in the Crusaders' 21-17 loss to the Sharks.

A failure to gather points at one end of the park and a propensity to give them away at the other was the story behind the loss. Under pressure, the Crusaders infringed at the tackled ball area, handing Sharks first-five Patrick Lambie all the opportunity he needed to steer his side home with his metronomic boot.

Tyler Bleyendaal, on the other hand, despite another convincing performance in terms of his game management, couldn't deliver the same accuracy at goal-kicking.

"Discipline cost us at the end of the day in which they turned pressure into points," coach Todd Blackadder said. "We didn't have any field position or possession in that second half which was disappointing.

"Obviously he [Bleyendaal] will be disappointed with his goal kicking. With that amount of field position we had in the first half, we just couldn't turn that pressure into points. I almost felt by halftime we were really on the verge of breaking them and opening them up. Those goal kicks could have turned that around but it just wasn't to be."

Meanwhile, seven penalties from Lambie did the job in Durban after the Crusaders had led 11-9 at halftime and the lead changed three times in the second half. The Sharks finished the stronger, with last weekend's grinding victory over the Stormers in Cape Town taking a toll on the Crusaders.

Blackadder's men looked sharp in the first half, with Robbie Fruean proving a handful and helping to set up Andy Ellis' try, the only one of the match, but appeared to run out of energy in the face of a Sharks' comeback.

Blackadder also withdrew Sam and Luke Whitelock and Wyatt Crockett after the break. Zac Guildford also left the field and iced a hamstring on the sideline.

The bonus point gives the Crusaders five points from their two games in the Republic, but they still have a challenging match against the Force in Perth on the way home.

"We'll take the five points but we're very disappointed we couldn't finish it off tonight," Crusaders captain George Whitelock said.

The Crusaders were on the wrong side of some strange decisions from referee Lourens van der Merwe. They were mostly kept in check by an organised Sharks outfit after halftime, and had to defend desperately to deny the home team twice in quick succession 10 minutes into the second half. Luke Whitelock pulled off a try-saving tackle in the left corner to prevent lock Franco van der Merwe from scoring in the second of the attacks.

Lambie sent kicks over in the 55th and 58th to put the Sharks ahead for the first time since the opening 10 minutes, then landed another two for the victory. Bleyendaal, who played with good control otherwise, pushed a late shot wide and had another drop short.

Another curious breakdown penalty from van der Merwe allowed Lambie to seal the win.

Sharks 21 (P. Lambie 7 pens), Crusaders 17 (A. Ellis try; T. Bleyendaal 4 pens). Halftime: Crusaders 11-9.

- Herald on Sunday

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