(Reuters) - Bryn Hall and David Havili scored early tries just three minutes apart as the Canterbury Crusaders used a strong defensive effort to crush a wasteful Sharks side 40-10 in their Super Rugby quarter-final in Christchurch on Saturday.
Scrumhalf Hall and fullback Havili crossed inside the first 12 minutes, while Matt Todd touched down early in the second half before Braydon Ennor and Pete Samu added late tries to set up a semi-final against the Wellington Hurricanes next week.
The Sharks dominated long stretches of the match at Rugby League Park but the South Africans wasted several scoring opportunities and found the defending champions’ relentless defence too organised and too difficult to break down.
Winger Jacobus Van Wyk scored the Sharks’ only try, with flyhalf Robert du Preez adding the other points with the boot.
“I thought the boys worked hard for each other,” Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock said of his side’s defence.
“There were a couple of penalties that put us under pressure but we’ll have a good review and look ahead to next week.”
The home side were at their ruthless best in the first quarter as they exploited the porous defence with two quick-fire tries to Hall and Havili as they raced to a 13-0 lead.
They were helped by a slow start by the Sharks, who had won three of their four matches against New Zealand opposition this season, as they missed tackles, made elementary errors and had a misfiring set piece.
They were also profligate in Crusaders’ territory with Philip Van Der Walt’s dropping of the ball with the line open the worst example.
They managed to finally capitalise on a concerted amount of pressure when winger Van Wyk crossed and continued to dominate but were unlucky to go into halftime trailing 16-7 after Richie Mo’unga slotted his second penalty for the home side.
The Crusaders extended their lead when flanker Matt Todd was put over by Hall but the Sharks refused to buckle as the game continued to ebb and flow.
Neither side were able to truly seize total control with the only scoring coming as Du Preez and Mo’unga exchanged penalties.
The home side, however, shut the match down with Ennor’s 67th-minute try after another strong burst by All Blacks captain Kieran Read, who looked to be getting back to his best after back surgery kept him out for seven months.
“Championship games are won by defence and we missed a few crucial one on one tackles,” Sharks captain Ruan Botha said.
“Hats off to them, their defence was really strong and in their attacking play they just kept running into holes, turning our backs and putting their guys into space.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by John O'Brien and Christian Radnedge