Crusaders hold off committed Reds

The Crusaders overcame a spirited performance from the Reds to record a 33-22 victory in their Super 14 encounter at Christchurch's Jade Stadium on Saturday evening.

The defending Super 14 champions scored five tries and a bonus point through Stephen Brett, Ross Filipo, Mose Tuiali'i, Scott Hamilton and replacement Brent Ward, with Brett adding four conversions.

The Reds, coming off an impressive opening-round win over the Hurricanes, managed tries to Greg Holmes and Peter Hynes while new recruit Clinton Schifcofske kicked four penalty goals.

The Reds followed on from where they left off against the Hurricanes with a strict devotion to the pick-and-drive in the early stages of the game.

While effective last week, they enjoyed mixed results against the Crusaders, who kept the fringes of the ruck well-populated and used aggressive defence to keep the Reds at bay.

The Crusaders waited for their opportunities in attack and their patience was rewarded in the 14th minute when Brett scored following an attacking line-out deep inside the Reds' half.

The home side had transferred the ball to the right after the set-piece and from the subsequent phase play, Brett crossed untouched to open the scoring.

Brett converted his own try for a 7-0 lead and the Crusaders doubled their total near the half-hour mark when Filipo finished off an outstanding attacking movement.

The Crusaders turned to a staple of their play - supporting the ball carrier in the tackle - and in doing so stretched the Reds defence to allow Filipo an almost unopposed run to the line.

Brett added the extras, but the Reds refused to panic at the prospect of playing catch-up rugby and their commitment to a forwards-dominated game plan paid off with Holmes' try in the 34th minute.

The visitors were awarded a penalty inside 22 and rather than look for an easy three points, Berrick Barnes went for touch. From the ensuring line-out, the Reds drove their maul towards the tryline before Holmes crashed over amongst a sea of bodies.

Schifcofske could not convert but he opened his account with a late penalty to close the margin to six points at half-time. He then added to his tally with a penalty from just inside the Crusaders' 22 to cut the lead to 14-11 before Hynes' put the Reds in front with an opportunist try in the 48th minute.

The Crusaders had launched an attack towards the right flank but a Rico Gear grubber was defensively stabbed at by Hynes, who regathered close to the sidelines and ran through to touch down.

While Schifcofske missed the conversion attempt, the Reds had now moved 19-14 ahead but it proved to be a short-lived advantage, as Tuiali'i managed the Crusaders' third try adjacent to the goalposts in the 56th minute.

Brett's conversion made the lead 21-19 in the Crusaders' favour, however the Reds rebounded with Schifcofske's fourth penalty goal from point blank range.

Again, the Crusaders pegged back their opponents when Hamilton strolled in courtesy of an overlap, his effort converted by Brett for a 28-22 lead.

The Reds' impressive maturity under the leadership of Eddie Jones saw them work their way back into the Crusaders' half, but tough defence and loose passing saw a loss in territory and ultimately a penalty was conceded for not releasing in the ruck.

The Crusaders made the most of the reprieve and they grabbed their fifth try when a crossfield kick to the left saw Hamilton offload to Ward in the final act of the match.