BUENOS AIRES, April 7 (Reuters) - Title holders the Canterbury Crusaders showed their strength in depth as wings George Bridge and Manasa Mataele scored two tries each in a crushing 40-14 victory over the Jaguares at Velez Sarsfield on Saturday.
Flyhalf Mitch Hunt and centre Ryan Crotty also went over for the visitors with the flyhalf kicking four conversions as the Crusaders bagged a bonus point.
The Jaguares, who have two wins from their seven matches, were unable to repeat their usual good start at home despite the lion’s share of possession in the first half and went in 19-0 down at halftime.
The Argentine side did manage two tries in the second half from fullback Joaquin Tuculet and wing Emiliano Boffelli, both converted by flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez.
The Crusaders were without several leading players including All Blacks captain Kieran Read and spent a big proportion of the match defending but were too sharp onto Jaguares mistakes and lethal on the counter.
Handling errors also let the home side down otherwise they might have had more tries but they came up against a brick wall defence from a side who return to New Zealand after adding the win to last weekend’s 14-8 victory over the Lions, last year’s beaten finallists.
Bridge scored in the corner after six minutes, just managing to touch down cleanly before being bundled into touch, the try awarded after much deliberation with the TMO.
Bridge added his second eight minutes later intercepting a dropped ball in a Jaguares attack and running more than half the length of the field to score under the posts.
The home side replied by building an attack through 29 phases against stern Crusaders defending but finally a handling mistake between Sanchez and Tuculet on the left wing denied them a try.
The Jaguares defence was caught napping in the 33rd minute when a neat pass from the back of a Crusaders lineout found Mataele, who darted through a gap to score close to the posts.
The Argentine side finally got on the scoreboard with Tuculet’s try early in the second half but Hunt then sent Mataele chasing a kick ahead and the burly wing powered his way past three tackles before offloading to the flyhalf, who scored.
Boffelli went over within two minutes and the Jaguares looked like they might close the gap further only for Crotty to charge down a kick and widen it and Mataele relying on his speed to put the finishing touch with the sixth try. (Reporting by Rex Gowar)