7 Jun 2015

Crusaders win but playoff dreams dashed

8:57 am on 7 June 2015

The Crusaders won't feature in the Super Rugby playoffs for the first time in 14 years, despite claiming a bonus point 34-11win over the lowly Blues last night in Auckland.

The Crusaders first-five Dan Carter kicks the ball.

The Crusaders first-five Dan Carter kicks the ball. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Waratahs 58-33 victory over the Cheetahs in Blomfontein this morning killed off any chance the Crusaders had of reaching the finals.

The Crusaders win last night had kept their slim playoff chances alive.

The All Blacks first-five Dan Carter was perfect with his goal kicking and set up a try with a pin-point cross kick in the victory.

The Crusaders have 41 points in seventh position, one place outside the playoffs, though they're now out of finals contention.

The Brumbies (who beat the Force on Friday night) and Waratahs (who thrashed the Cheetahs this morning) bonus point victories in the penultimate round ensured the Christchurch based franchise will miss the finals for the first time since 2001.

The sixth placed Brumbies will host the Crusaders in Canberra next weekend in the final round of the regular season but they are already 6 points ahead of the Todd Blackadder coached side.

The Crusaders are on 41 points and the best result they can hope for is a bonus point victory which would take them to 46 points which is still below the Brumbies who are the last placed qualifier currently.

While the two Australian sides have already qualified for the playoffs it has not been decided who will win the Australian Conference.

The Brumbies vs Crusaders result next week will have a massive impact on where the two Australian sides finish the regular season.

The final round of the regular season will decide who plays who in the qualification round and who gets a week off with the Hurricanes who have won the New Zealand Conference and will finish in first

Carter was making just his fourth start for the Crusaders this season in his preferred first-five position and has slowly come back into form in the last two weeks after a sputtering final Super Rugby campaign.

The Blues' season effectively ended months ago and with a host of injuries to their squad, coach John Kirwan gave several fringe players their opportunity to try and press their Super Rugby credentials ahead of next season.

They began promisingly enough with first-five Ihaia West slotting two early penalties, but the Crusaders then scored 17 unanswered points in the first half with tries to wing Nemani Nadolo and lock Luke Romano while Carter converted both and added a penalty.

Nadolo's breathtaking try was created by Carter's vision with the number 10 kicking across field and the Fiji international outjumped Ben Lam, grabbed the ball with one hand, lost it, then gained control again as he fell over the line to score.

Without injured All Blacks props Tony Woodcock and Charlie Faumuina, the Blues were overpowered at the scrum with referee Chris Pollock awarding a penalty try to the Crusaders in a scrappy second half.

Matt Todd scored the bonus point try after more forward dominance while Carter added another penalty and two more conversions before wing Lam scored a consolation try for the Blues with five minutes remaining.

Also last night the Chiefs sealed their place in the playoffs with a 24-3 win over the Reds in Queensland while the Melbourne Rebels ended the finals hopes of the South African side the Bulls with a nailbiting 21-20 victory at home.

The Rebels finish their 2015 campaign against the Western Force back at AAMI Park on Friday evening.

The Bulls return home to host the Cheetahs in a dead rubber in Pretoria next weekend.

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