Crusaders heap more misery on Highlanders

Getty Images     21 Apr 2013     Getty Images

Presented with the chance to snap a two-game losing streak, the home side took it with a tries to Robbie Fruean and Tom Taylor.

They were backed up by 14 points through the boot of first-five Tyler Bleyendaal, who slotted five from seven attempts at goal.

The winless Highlanders, with no less than six key personnel missing, hardly seemed like a challenge but they certainly didn't lack effort and passion in their eighth consecutive defeat.

An outstanding defensive effort in the first half was backed up with a penalty goal and a try to centre Jason Emery.

But it was far too little to pose any kind threat to the 16-0 lead held by the Crusaders at half-time.

With the win the Crusaders moved to within a point of the third placed Hurricanes in the New Zealand conference on 26 points.

The Highlanders remain dead last in the overall standings on a mere six competition points; the only team yet to secure a win after 10 rounds.

Pressure is what the Crusaders' seven Super Rugby titles were built on and the Highlanders were dealt plenty of it in the opening exchanges.

With superiority in possession and field position, the Crusaders were frustrated after two try-scoring opportunities went begging due to poor handling in the wet Christchurch conditions.

Wing Zac Guildford came within inches of scoring his first try of the season.

The Television Match Official deemed he had placed the ball short of the line, ruining what would have been a feel good story for the troubled All Black.

That was before Fruean crossed the whitewash seconds before the half-time siren.

It was a timely boost, after their dominance in the opening 30 minutes produced just three penalty goals, which Bleyendaal slotted after missing his first-up effort.

With their backs against the wall the Highlanders were not without their chances to hit back, however.

A yellow card to prop Owen Franks, for punching Jarrad Hoeata, saw the Crusaders reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes, during which the Highlanders failed to reach the attacking 22.

Problems at the lineout and scrum hindered any attacking raids Jamie Joseph had devised during what would have no doubt a tough week at training. Decision making was also an issue.

All Black Colin Slade entered the fray and edged his side to within 11 points with a penalty in the final quarter but that was as close as the Highlanders would come to tasting victory.

With less than 10 minutes remaining Taylor put the result beyond doubt when he dotted down in the left corner.

Crusaders: 24 (Fruean, Taylor tries; Bleyendaal con, 4 pens)

Highlanders: 8 (Emery try, Slade pen)

HT: 16-0