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May 29, 2017

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Crusaders beat Stormers 14-13 in Super Rugby clash

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand--All Blacks flyhalf Tom Taylor kicked his third penalty with six minutes remaining to give the Crusaders a deeply contentious 14-13 win over the Stormers in Super Rugby on Saturday.

The seven-time champion Crusaders retained an unbeaten record in home matches against overseas team stretching back to 2004 when Taylor's penalty snatched victory against a heroic Stormers side.

The Cape Town based Stormers held the Crusaders to 3-3 after a first half in which the home team had 80 percent of possession and 70 percent of territory. They then surged to a 13-3 lead with a brilliant second half try from center Damian de Allende.

But the Crusaders hit back with a try through debutant Kieron Fonotia and Taylor's late penalty gave them their first win in three matches this season.

The win was extremely fortuitous. The Stormers had a clear try disallowed during the first half and Taylor's penalty, which gave the Crusaders their first lead in the 73rd minute, was also subject to dispute. Lock Michael Rhodes was penalized for intercepting the ball in an offside position but he seemed to have come from on-side and his infringement was not greater than those committed by the Crusaders regularly throughout the match.

Though the Christchurch-based Crusaders had an overwhelming surplus of possession and territory throughout the first half they were unable to break down a resolute and well-organized Stormers defense. They led with a penalty to Taylor after three minutes, balanced by a goal to Stormers' flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis in the 34th minute.

Catrakilis' penalty was a small consolation for an attack by the Stormers in which captain Jean de Villiers clearly scored by forcing the ball against the goalpost. The television match official denied the try, without explanation, and the Stormers were forced to settle for a penalty that tied the scores.

They took the lead with Catrakilis's second penalty in the 45th minute and surged to a 10-point lead when Allende scored in the 50th minute.

Flanker Schalk Burger, who was the outstanding player of the match, retrieved a kick from Crusaders' fullback Colin Slade while sweeping behind his backline. He broke the defense, then passed to de Villiers who sprinted into open space. De Villiers paused in flight and put in a perfectly-weighted kick for de Allende who collected the bounce to score.

Taylor cut the lead to seven points with a 61st minute penalty before the Crusaders constructed a try for Fonotia which marked the first lapse by the Stormers' defense. After missing a conversion which would have tied the scores, Taylor kicked the decisive penalty in the 74th minute.

The Crusaders were unworthy of their win. Their attack was stilted and unimaginative and their set pieces, handling and kicking were all flawed. But they were able to infringe without penalty while the Stormers suffered heavily from a slanted penalty count.

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