2 Apr 2016

Crusaders keep Lions at bay

10:46 am on 2 April 2016

The Crusaders have climbed to fourth in the overall Super Rugby standings with an 43-37 win over South African side the Lions in Johannesburg.

The Crusaders' midfielder Ryan Crotty.

The Crusaders' midfielder Ryan Crotty. Photo: Photosport

The Crusaders scored six tries to the Lions four to move to 18 points, four behind the Highlanders, who took top spot in the New Zealand conference with an error ridden 32-20 win over the Western Force in Dunedin last night.

Centre Ryan Crotty scored a hat-trick as the visiting Crusaders ran in six tries to the Lions four to beat the in-form home side and make it two wins from two games on their trip to South Africa.

It was the second major South African scalp in successive weeks for Crusaders, seven-times past winners of the southern hemisphere competition, after they had beat the Sharks last weekend.

It took less than a minute for the Crusaders to make their mark as a quick turn over from a counter attack and a clever skip pass helped Crotty cross the line for a first try.

The Lions scored a try of their own within three minutes through Lionel Mapoe, but there was little time to settle as an intercept pass put Johnny McNicholl through and then Wyatt Crockett added a third try for the Crusaders with less than 20 minutes played.

Lions first-five Elton Jantjies, returning from injury, stole around the wing to score a clever try and then converted it himself from a tight angle to bring the score back to 19-17 just before the half-hour mark.

Both sides traded penalty kicks as the Crusaders went into half-time with a narrow 22-20 lead.

They were expected to struggle after the break in Johannesburg's rarefied air, but All Black Crotty showed a clean pair of heels to the home defence with two more tries in the 48th and 51st minutes as the Crusaders went into a 36-20 lead.

Home hopes flickered briefly when replacement hooker Akker van der Merwe showed the Crusaders he had some pace of his own to go over to reduce the lead to nine points, but almost immediately the Crusaders re-established their hegemony as some crisp passing allowed Mitchell Drummond to make it 43-20.

Van der Merwe scored the 10th try with 10 minutes left and the Lions kept the pressure on in search of an unlikely come-from-behind win, but a combination of handling errors and stout defence denied them in the end.

The Crusaders are now third in the New Zealand conference, one point behind the Chiefs and four back from the Highlanders.

The Chiefs have the chance to reclaim top spot when they play the Australian conference leading Brumbies in Canberra tonight.