Crusaders slam Sharks to make Super semis

12:04, Jun 25 2011
Crusaders
Luke Romano of the Crusaders breaks through a tackle during the Super Rugby trial match against the Melbourne Rebels.
Crusaders
Zac Guildford of the Crusaders is tackled by Stirling Mortlock of the Rebels during their Super Rugby trial match.
Crusaders
Luke Romano of the Crusaders breaks through a tackle during the Super Rugby trial match against the Melbourne Rebels.
Crusaders
Peter Betham of the Rebels is tackled by Willi Heinz of the Crusaders during their Super Rugby trial match.
Blues v Crusaders
Crusader Adam Whitelock is surrounded by Blues players Jerome Kaino, Daniel Braid, Keven Mealamu and Benson Stanley at Eden Park.
Blues v Crusaders
Crusaders centre Robbie Fruean is tackled by Blues halfback Alby Mathewson and Isaia Toeava at Eden Park.
Blues v Crusaders
Crusaders right wing Sean Maitland is knocked over by Blues fullback Isaia Toeava and flanker Jerome Kaino at Eden Park.
Blues v Crusaders
Crusaders right wing Sean Maitland scores the opening try of the match against the Blues at Eden Park.
Blues v Crusaders
Blues lock Ali Williams disrupts lineout ball for Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock at Eden Park.
Crusaders v Waratahs
Sonny Bill Williams of the Crusaders beats the tackle of Dave Dennis and Ben Mowen of the Waratahs at Trafalgar Park.
Crusaders v Waratahs
Brad Thorn of the Crusaders is tackled by Kane Douglas of the Waratahs.
Crusaders v Waratahs
Crusaders players celebrate a try during the round three Super Rugby match against the Waratahs at Trafalgar Park.
Crusaders v Waratahs
Israel Dagg of the Crusaders passes during the round three Super Rugby match against the Waratahs at Trafalgar Park.
Crusaders v Waratahs
Sonny Bill Williams chats with the fans after the game against the Waratahs at Trafalgar Park.
Crusaders v Waratahs
Fans show their support for the Crusaders at Trafalgar Park in Nelson.
Crusaders v Waratahs
Crusaders Sean Maitland is caught in a Waratahs tackle late in the second half.
Crusaders v Waratahs
The Crusaders' Matt Todd clears the ball as he is caught in a Waratah's tackle.
Highlanders vs Crusaders
Zac Guildford of the Crusaders makes a break during the round five Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Crusaders at Carisbrook, Dunedin.
Highlanders vs Crusaders
Matt Todd of the Crusaders tries to score during round five Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Crusaders at Carisbrook, Dunedin.
Highlanders vs Crusaders
Josh Bekuhis of the Highlanders is tackled during the round five Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Crusaders at Carisbrook, Dunedin.
Highlanders vs Crusaders
Nasi Manu of the Highlanders makes a break during the round five Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Crusaders at Carisbrook, Dunedin.
Highlanders vs Crusaders
Tony Brown of the Highlanders passes during the round five Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Crusaders at Carisbrook, Dunedin.
Crusaders vs Brumbies
Crusader Andy Ellis makes a break to set up Sean Maitland during their Super Rugby match against the Brumbies at Trafalgar Park, Nelson.
Crusaders vs Brumbies
Israel Dagg looks to make a break for the Crusaders during their match with the Brumbies at Trafalgar Park, Nelson.
Crusaders vs Brumbies
Israel Dagg looks to make a break for the Crusaders against the Brumbies at Trafalgar Park, Nelson.
Crusaders vs Brumbies
The Crusaders' Sonny Bill Williams gets some special treatment after the victory over the Brumbies in the Super Rugby.
Crusaders vs Brumbies
The Crusaders' Chris Jack in his 100 Super Rugby match looks for space against the Brumbies.
Crusaders vs Brumbies
Crusader Tom Marshall looks to dissect the Brumbies defence during their Super Rugby match at Trafalgar Park, Nelson.
Israel Dagg
Crusaders fullback Israel Dagg beats Lwazi Mvovo to the Twickenham corner flag.
Sonny Bill Williams
Crusaders second five-eighth Sonny Bill Williams cuts through the Sharks defence.
Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny Bill Williams offloads in the tackle of Sharks fullback Louis Ludik.
Zac Guildford
Crusaders winger Zac Guildford takes on Sharks centre and captain Stefan Terblanche.
Sean Maitland
Crusaders winger Sean Maitland soars over to score the first of his two tries against the Sharks at Twickenham.
Try celebration
Zac Guildford, Robbie Fruean, Dan Carter and Andy Ellis celebrate after Carter crossed for his try against the Sharks.
Sean Maitland
Winger Sean Maitland celebrates his first try in front of the Twickenham crowd.
Sharks and Crusasders supporters
Sharks and Crusaders fans mingle before their historic Super Rugby match kicked off at Twickenham.
Twickenham stall
A stall outside Twickenham selling Crusaders and Sharks paraphernalia before their historic Super Rugby match.
Twickenham fans
Fans at Twickenham don't forget what the Crusaders-Sharks match is all about.
Graham Henry and Steve Tew
All Blacks coach Graham Henry and NZRU chief executive Steve Tew are avid spectators at the Crusaders-Sharks Super Rugby match at Twickenham.
George Whitelock
Crusaders flanker George Whitelock holds off Sharks opposite number Keegan Daniel during the Super Rugby match at Twickenham. Matt Todd looms in support.
Zac Guildford
Zac Guildford finishes a brilliant Crusaders try against the Sharks.
Sean Maitland
Crusaders winger Sean Maitland scores the decisive try to seal victory over the Sharks at Twickenham.
Justin Marshall
Former All Blacks halfback Justin Marshall strolls to Twickenham to commentate on the Super Rugby match between his old side, the Crusaders, against the Sharks.
Crusaders v Bulls
Bulls' Werner Kruger holds on to a Crusaders player.
Crusaders v Bulls
Bulls' Dean Greyling brings down the Crusaders' Ben Franks.
Crusaders v Bulls
Sonny Bill Williams scores the first try of the match for the Crusaders.
Crusaders v Bulls
The Bulls' Victor Matfield battle Chris Jack in a lineout.
Crusaders v Chiefs
Crusaders' Richie McCaw is taken down by the Chiefs' Tim Nanai-Williams.
Crusaders v Chiefs
The Chiefs' Mike Delaney is tackled.
Crusaders v Chiefs
Richie McCaw tackles Brendon Leonard.
Crusaders v Chiefs
Chiefs' Liam Messam is hauled down.
Crusaders v Chiefs
The Crusaders' Sonny Bill Williams slips past Dwayne Sweeney's tackle.
Crusaders v Chiefs
Chiefs' Lelia Masanga getting closed down by Ben Franks and Brad Thorn.
Robbie Fruean of the Crusaders breaks through the tackle of Shaun Treeby of the Highlanders during the round 10 Super Rugby match in Nelson.
Robbie Fruean of the Crusaders breaks through the tackle of Shaun Treeby of the Highlanders during the round 10 Super Rugby match in Nelson.
Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith gets his pass away during the round 10 Super Rugby match against the Highlanders at Trafalgar Park in Nelson.
Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith gets his pass away during the round 10 Super Rugby match against the Highlanders at Trafalgar Park in Nelson.
Crusaders back Israel Dagg is tackled by James Paterson of the Highlanders during the round 10 Super Rugby match at Trafalgar Park in Nelson.
Crusaders back Israel Dagg is tackled by James Paterson of the Highlanders during the round 10 Super Rugby match at Trafalgar Park in Nelson.
Zac Guilford of the Crusaders is tackled by Aaron Smith of the Highlanders during the round 10 Super Rugby match at Trafalgar Park in Nelson.
Zac Guilford of the Crusaders is tackled by Aaron Smith of the Highlanders during the round 10 Super Rugby match at Trafalgar Park in Nelson.
Nasi Manu of the Highlanders runs with the ball during the round 10 Super Rugby match at Trafalgar Park in Nelson.
Nasi Manu of the Highlanders runs with the ball during the round 10 Super Rugby match at Trafalgar Park in Nelson.
Matt Todd of the Crusaders is tackled by Jarrad Hoeata of the Highlanders during the round 10 Super Rugby match at Trafalgar Park in Nelson.
Matt Todd of the Crusaders is tackled by Jarrad Hoeata of the Highlanders during the round 10 Super Rugby match at Trafalgar Park in Nelson.
Crusaders v Highlanders
The Highlanders and Crusaders pack down.
Crusaders v Highlanders
The Crusader Horsemen.
Crusaders v Highlanders
Israel Dagg tries to break the Highlanders defence.
Crusaders v Highlanders
Zac Guildford of the Crusaders scores the first try of the game against the Highlanders.
Crusaders v Western Force
Zac Guildford of the Crusaders gets tackled by Pat Dellitt and Brett Sheehan of the Force.
Crusaders v Western Force
Sonny Bill Williams of the Crusaders makes a break against the Force.
Crusaders v Western Force
The Crusaders celebrate a try against the Force.
Crusaders v Western Force
Mat Berquist of the Crusaders looks to pass against the Force.
Crusaders v Western Force
Nathan Sharpe of the Force looks to break through Mat Berquist and Chris Jack of the Crusaders.
Crusaders defeat Stormers
The Crusaders start the celebrations after defeating the Stormers 20-14 at DHL Newlands.
Crusaders defeat Stormers
Sonny Bill Williams barks out the orders.
Crusaders defeat Stormers
Robbie Freuan gets on the move for the Crusaders.
Crusaders defeat Stormers
The Stormers' Jacque Fourie takes an unexpected trip.
Crusaders defeat Stormers
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder looks on as his charges record a memorable win in South Africa.
Crusaders defeat Stormers
Two-try hero for the Crusaders, Wyatt Crockett.
Crusaders defeat Stormers
Schalk Burger is hauled down by the Crusaders' defence.
Crusaders v Cheetahs
The Crusaders clear the ruck against the Cheetahs.
Crusaders v Cheetahs
Cheetahs celebrate their win over the Crusaders.
Crusaders v Cheetahs
Ryan Crotty of the Crusaders and Adriaan Strauss of the Cheetahs tangle.
Crusaders v Cheetahs
Ashley Johnson of the Cheetahs on the charge against the Crusaders.
Crusaders v Chiefs
Sitiveni Sivivatu is tackled the Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and Chiefs played at McLean Park, Napier.
Crusaders v Chiefs
Richie McCaw loses the ball in the tackle in the Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and Chiefs played at McLean Park, Napier.
Crusaders v Chiefs
Richie McCaw is tackled by Sam Cane in the Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and Chiefs played at McLean Park, Napier.
Crusaders v Chiefs
Richard Kahui is tackled in the Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and Chiefs played at McLean Park, Napier.
Crusaders v Chiefs
Sona Taumalolo is ankle tapped by Dan Carter in the Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and Chiefs played at McLean Park, Napier.
Crusaders v Chiefs
Robbie Fruen tackles Tim Nanai-Williams during the Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and Chiefs played at McLean Park, Napier.
Crusaders v Reds
Richie McCaw of the Crusaders reacts after the team's defeat by the Reds.
Crusaders v Reds
Brent Ward of the Crusaders tackles Luke Morahan of the Reds.
Crusaders v Reds
Will Genia of the Reds scores a try past Zac Guildford of the Crusaders.
Crusaders v Reds
Brent Ward of the Crusaders scores a try past Quade Cooper of the Reds.
Crusaders v Reds
Will Genia of the Reds runs at the tryline to score against the Crusaders at Suncorp Stadium.
Crusaders v Blues
Dan Carter kicks a penalty against the Blues.
Crusaders v Blues
Kieran Read of the Crusaders is tackled by Peter Saili of the Blues.
Crusaders v Blues
Tom Marshall of the Crusaders is tackled by Jared Payne of the Blues.
Crusaders v Blues
Robbie Fruean of the Crusaders tries to get between Peter Saili and Jerome Kaino of the Blues.
Crusaders v Blues
Luke McAlister of the Blues and Robbie Fruean of the Crusaders clash for the ball.
Crusaders
Corey Flynn of the Crusaders at their game with the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium.
Crusaders
Robbie Fruean of the Crusaders at their game with the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium.
Crusaders
Kieran Reid of the Crusaders at their game witht eh Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium.
Crusaders v Sharks
Sonny Bill Williams celebrates his first half try against the Sharks with Andy Ellis.
Crusaders v Sharks
Kieran Read in action against the Sharks.
Crusaders v Sharks
Sonny Bill Williams tries to offload around Stefan Terblanche of the Sharks.
Crusaders v Sharks
Tom Marshall makes a break in the first half against the Sharks.
Crusaders v Sharks
Sonny Bill Williams makes a break in the first half against the Sharks.
Crusaders v Sharks
The Sharks flanker Keegan Daniel goes high to stop Crusaders halfback Andy Ellis.
Crusaders v Sharks
Kieran Read on the charge against the Sharks.
Crusaders v Sharks
Sonny Bill Williams breaks the line against the Sharks.
Crusaders v Sharks
Sonny Bill Williams scores a try against the Sharks.
Crusaders v Sharks
Sonny Bill Williams is dragged down in a Sharks tackle.
Crusaders v Sharks
Dan Carter is tackled by Gerhard Mostert of the Sharks.
Crusaders v Sharks
Gerhart Mostert of the Sharks has his jersey rearranged.
Crusaders v Sharks
Matt Todd tackled by Patrick Lambie ofthe Sharks.

And so the epic odyssey continues. Having already covered over 82,000km on their historic, earthquake-ravaged campaign in 2011, the Crusaders must now take one more deep breath and dig deep, for what may well be their biggest challenge of this tumultuous season.

A semifinal in Cape Town against the rested and recuperated Stormers is their reward for a dominating victory over the Sharks in Nelson last night. It's daunting, it's demanding, but it will be just the cup of tea for these crusading Cantabs, who will depart Christchurch this afternoon.

Another 24,000km (round trip) in their bulging frequent flyer wallets, another long and winding road to their next destination on this unprecedented season that will – when it finally ends – see them having played every single match outside of their home base.

Think about it. The mental and physical toll that must have taken. The powers of concentration to keep their standards so unerringly high – just four losses in 15 matches through the round-robin. And, all the while, the distraction of the city they live in torn apart by shifting plates and cruel fortune.

As coach Todd Blackadder remarked last week, if his men do get up and claim their eighth title in this gruelling competition, it will go down as one of the finest achievements, not just in rugby, but in sporting history.

Yet, somehow, the Crusaders keep winning, and more remarkably, keep their standards unbelievably high. How they do it? Frankly, it defies belief.

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The only weekends they haven't hit the road this season have been for week two's quake-enforced abandoned match against the Canes, and their two byes. Every other round for the last 19 they've had to go somewhere, ranging from jaunts up and down the island to Nelson and Timaru respectively, to more challenging journeys to Perth, London, Bloemfontein and Cape Town.

Last night, in front of a disappointing small crowd of around 12,000, they kept intact their perfect playoff record at home, with a typically clinical display that never really gave the Sharks a sniff.

The Crusaders did take a while to get their game going in the first half, coughing up the first try – to No8 Willem Alberts off a great break from halfback Charl McLeod – and a 5-3 lead early on to the visitors.

It was loose stuff from the red-and-blacks, getting pushed off the ball at the breakdown, poor pass execution, one certain try butchered, and it took until just past the half-hour mark for them to produce some brilliance.

When it came it was scintillating stuff. A big scrum turned over a Sharks put-in and, from there, wing Sean Maitland did outstandingly well to first promote static ball off the deck, and then offload to Sonny Bill Williams for the finish. Carter's conversion and a subsequent penalty eased the home side out to an eight-point halftime lead. The game was then effectively decided less than 10 minutes into the second spell when, after traded penalties, No8 Kieran Read swooped on an adventurous Patrick Lambie pass and strolled in for a seven-pointer that made it 23-8. The Sharks were floundering at that point, and their hosts were never going to allow them an escape route – a late Ben Franks try and a couple more Carter penalties completing the rout.

Williams was the pick of the Crusaders backs, with a hearty return to form, though Maitland's effort off a long injury layoff was also commendable, and the young 'un Tom Marshall again showed what a prospect he is. Up front, the Crusaders scrum was its perpetually excellent self, and skipper Read shook off some early wobbles to finish strongly.

And if Brad Thorn is the cumbersome beast that one former All Black has described him as, that certainly wasn't evident as he and Sam Whitelock put in a muscular effort in the second row. So now the Crusaders, with Richie McCaw fit and available again, decamp a few days hence in the Cape to begin preparations for their 10th straight semifinal. Yes, that's 10 straight. None, though, have been finer than this remarkable one.

At the end of last night's game, Williams presented the Red Cross Christchurch earthquake fund with a cheque for $100,000, raised via his recent boxing fight in Auckland.

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