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CAPE TOWN - The Crusaders' unbeaten run in the Super 14 ended today when they were beaten 17-28 by the Stormers this morning.

It was the Crusaders' first loss in 11 matches this season and ended a 17-match unbeaten streak stretching back into last season.

The result allowed the Waratahs to lead the standings with a better points differential even though they are level on 42 points with the Crusaders. The Waratahs secured a 20-3 victory over the Highlanders on Friday night.

The Crusaders rested captain Richie McCaw and left world player of the year Daniel Carter on the bench for the match against the struggling South Africans, who started the round in 11th place.

The move backfired as the home side scored two tries to take a 21-3 lead three minutes into the second half.

Home captain De Wet Barry intercepted hooker Corey Flynn's pass to dash in from 30 metres to score the first try within 45 seconds from the start.

First five-eighth Peter Grant converted and added two penalties to one penalty from Cameron McIntyre before halftime.

Grant scored his side's second try three minutes after the restart -- ghosting through a stretched defence from 10 metres -- before the Crusaders really got themselves into the game following the introduction of Carter and Leon Macdonald.

Flanker Johnny Leo'o scored their first try in the 67th minute from a lineout drive but the game was put beyond the Crusaders when quick recycling through several phases opened a half gap for prop Eddie Andrews to surge over from close range with five minutes remaining.

Rico Gear scored a consolation try for the Crusaders in the final minute.

- REUTERS