SYDNEY (Reuters) - Centre Tim Bateman scored a brace of tries as the Canterbury Crusaders continued their perfect start to the Super Rugby season with an emphatic 41-22 win over the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney on Sunday.
The Crusaders also grabbed tries from George Bridge, David Havili, Bryn Hall and Ben Funnell as they punished a leaky Waratahs defence on a breezy day at Sydney Football Stadium.
Trailing 19-10 at half-time, the Waratahs fought back to within four points after quick tries to Jake Gordon and replacement winger Taqele Naiyaravoro but crumbled in the final 10 minutes to slump to their fourth loss of the season.
The Crusaders’ win kept them top of the Australasian conference and they will enjoy a well-earned bye before they host the struggling Tokyo-based Sunwolves.
The victory also completed the rout of the Australian conference, with New Zealand sides winning all four trans-Tasman clashes over the weekend.
In a worrying sign for the troubled competition, Australia’s five teams have yet to beat a New Zealand opponent this season.
Waratahs captain Michael Hooper had pledged a “good showing” for home fans before the match but it was the Crusaders storming to a 12-0 lead within 13 minutes.
Fullback Havili set up winger Bridge’s opening try down the left touch-line and then grabbed one himself minutes later, bounding through a yawning hole after a defensive mix-up by Hooper and Tolu Latu.
Hooper made up for the mistake 10 minutes later, diving over from a ruck after scrumhalf Jake Gordon carried the ball to within a metre of the line.
But the home side’s defensive shortcomings were exposed again with a number of missed tackles preceding Bateman’s first try seven minutes from halftime.
The outside centre had his second three minutes into the next half, shrugging off a weak tackle from winger Reece Robinson to canter beneath the posts.
The Waratahs hit back with a sumptuous set piece try when Gordon burst through at midfield and charged to the line, touching down between both Crusaders wingers.
Hulking replacement winger Naiyaravoro then fired up the home crowd with his best impression of Jonah Lomu, receiving the ball at the 10-metre mark on the right touch-line and bowling over Bridge before thundering over for the Waratahs’ third try.
Flyhalf Mitch Hunt slotted a penalty in the 59th minute to give the Crusaders a seven-point buffer and the visitors defended stoutly to frustrate the hosts on their try-line.
The Waratahs’ defiance faded away when another rash of missed tackles paved the way for Hall’s try with eight minutes left before replacement hooker Funnell rumbled over in the 76th minute to wrap up the match.
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly