First win brings great relief for Crusaders

LIAM NAPIER IN CHRISTCHURCH
Last updated 13:35 09/03/2014
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AT LAST: Crusaders players celebrate victory over Stormers in Christchurch.

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Relief was the overwhelming emotion for the Crusaders last night as they scraped past the Stormers in Christchurch.

The red and black machine stumbled out of neutral with their first character-building victory of the season, a result that breathed much-needed life into their stuttering campaign.

"It was ugly and we didn't play too well but we're happy," All Black Israel Dagg summed up the mood of his side. "This is huge. Three losses, it would have been a sad Sunday."

Coach Todd Blackadder could sense an immediate weight lifted from his players' shoulders. Collectively, they will now hope renewed confidence allows them to relax and play with some form of attacking freedom.

"We're a long way off where we want to be. Teams would have seen that," Dagg said. "We're too narrow. We're not attacking space. We're attacking into the heart of their defence so we need to work on that."

In a battle of wills, Blackadder praised his side's temperament and guts but also noted there was plenty to work on.

"At the moment it looks like we're thinking too much rather than having a go," he said. "It's good to get some numbers on the board. This competition is incredibly tough."

Tasman rookie Kieron Fonotia scored the Crusaders' only try with his first touch of the ball off the bench, while Tom Taylor nailed a match-winning penalty and pulled off a try-saving tackle to avoid a horrid 0-3 hole.

"It's massive relief," Fonotia said. "It was a bit touch and go there for a while but you could feel the momentum shift."

Taylor highlighted the difference the one-point win would have on the Crusaders' belief and mindset as they travel to Melbourne this week. The first five-eighth was relieved to nail the last-gasp penalty after missing a conversion and struggling in the first round with kicking issues against the Chiefs.  

"The one before that I missed I was disappointed but I hit it straight down the middle and it turned out well," he said.

"You could tell out there we really wanted it. At times things didn't go our way We've lacked a bit of passion and we showed that tonight, mainly through our defence."

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