Crusaders to meet Hurricanes in Super 14 final

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

The rugby union side, the Crusaders, are to meet the Hurricanes in Christchurch on Saturday night for the 2006 Super 14 final after defeating the Bulls 35–15 at Jade Stadium.

The match started with both sides being lead out by regular field players, as opposed to the traditional captains leading out their respective sides. Greg Sommerville lead out the Crusaders, in honour of his 100th match for the side, while Bakkies Botha lead out the Bulls in recognition of his 50th match milestone.

The Bulls were on the back foot immediately after Fourie du Preez knocked on a Daniel Carter kick. The Bulls also failed to capitalize early on, with Morné Steyn missing a 35 m penalty kick straight in front in the 7th minute.

The scoring opened up in the 16th minute, with All Black flyhalf and 2005 IRB World player of the year Daniel Carter kicking a penalty for the Crusaders, as well as taking his own season tally to 200 points.

After a Leon MacDonald chip kick, which he managed to regather, the Crusaders were able to produce quick ruck ball which ended with a grubber by centre Casey Laulala for winger Rico Gear to run on to and place down for the first try of the match. Carter subsequently missed the resulting conversion.

The Bulls' first points came in the 29th minute with Steyn kicking a 40m penalty to put three points on the board for the South African team. However, nearly straight after the kickoff, the Crusaders forced a turn over and again were able to produce quick ruck ball for Laulala to put away Gear for his second try of the night. Carter missed the conversion, which was in a similar position to the first.

Carter was then able to lengthen the Crusaders' lead with a dropped goal 35m out. After some good mauling, Springboks' winger Bryan Habana was able to score a try for the Bulls in the corner just before the stroke of halftime. Steyn missed the conversion, leaving the score 16–8 in favour of the Crusaders at half time.

In the second half, the Crusaders scored a try through lock Chris Jack after 17 phases, most of which consisted of pick and goes. This drew the Bulls fowards in and allowed half back Andrew Ellis to pass out to Jack who scored. Carter kicked the conversion to make it 23–8.

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Four minutes into the second half, promising young scrum half Andrew Ellis went down with what appeared to be an injury to his right knee. He was ably replace by All Black scrum half Kevin Senio. Three minutes later, Habana went down with a leg injury. This could be potentially devastating news for Springboks coach Jake White. Reserve scrum half Senio later went off to the blood-bin, forcing Cameron McIntyre on. Carter then switched into scrum half until Senio returned for McIntyre.

After the Bulls managed to control the ball for the next 20 minutes, the Crusaders forced a turn over. Fullback MacDonald was able to place a grubber into the corner, going out off a Bulls player. Some quick thinking by Aaron Mauger to throw the ball in quickly resulted in try to hooker Corey Flynn, which is his second in two weeks. Carter missed the subsequent coversion.

Mauger was again involved in the action later, this time scoring himself an impressive try in the 67th minute. After receiving a high pass from Carter, Mauger ran 51 m to score, beating 4 tacklers in the process and scoring the try in the 5th tackle. Carter converted and in doing so eclipsed Andrew Mehrten's record of 206 points in a season.

Late in the game, Pierre Spies scored a consolation try after quick ruck ball and breaking a Senio tackle. Steyn converted. This left it a 35–15, the final score.

After the match, Bulls captain Victor Matfield praised the Crusaders: "They punished us like they always do".

The Bulls loss continues their poor run at Jade Stadium, having won only once, back in 1996. In fact, the Crusaders have not lost at Jade since round 2, 2004. It also continued the run of New Zealand teams - no New Zealand team has lost to a South African team in a semi.

The Crusaders started the match as large favourites, paying $1.07 compared to the Bulls $7.00.

The final will be held at 7:35 p.m., Saturday, May 27 at Jade Stadium. It is the fourth all New Zealand final in 11 seasons of super rugby. It is expected to be a sell out.

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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.