Old firm from New Brighton sets-up Crusaders

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 10/03/2014
Ryan Crotty
JOSEPH JOHNSON/Fairfax NZ
SENIOR MAN: Ryan Crotty will hope to continue his combination with his former club teammate in midfield throughout the season.

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Since they were nippers dashing around in New Brighton's colours, Kieron Fonotia and Ryan Crotty have been flicking a ball to each other.

So when replacement centre Fonotia spied the smaller Demetri Catrakilis blocking his path to the tryline on Saturday night he couldn't think of a better bloke than his club-mate Crotty to release the final transfer.

"Yeah I called for Crots (to pass the ball) but he knows my voice pretty well because we played rugby together since we were seven years old," Fonotia later reflected. "I was just hoping he would give me the ball and trust me.

Crotty didn't hesitate. With his first touch of the ball, in his debut Super Rugby match, Fonotia charged through Stormers first five-eighth Catrakilis' tackle and scored the vital five-pointer in the 70th minute that sparked the Crusaders' resurgence and led to their first win of the season.

After he was asked whether the smaller Catrakilis presented a juicy target, Fonotia added: "I was hoping, mate, or I would have looked a bit silly."

Fonotia, 26, was so confident he had scored that he didn't feel the need to seek confirmation from referee Rohan Hoffmann.

"I just started celebrating, I just jumped up and did the old fist pump. I thought it was a try."

Although Tom Taylor missed the wide conversion the Crusaders, trailing 13-11, sniffed blood as the Stormers began to tire. Taylor kicked a handy penalty goal minutes later to put his side in front before they held on for the 14-13 win.

Fonotia was a surprise inclusion on the Crusaders bench after injuries to outside backs Adam Whitelock, Zac Guildford and Nafi Tuitavake led to his promotion from the wider training group.

Taylor's successful penalty with six minutes remaining put the Crusaders in front but it was his brilliant tackle on Stormers replacement wing Sailosi Tagicakibau, four minutes later, that was most memorable.

Tagicakibau tore into a gap and angled towards the tryline when a covering Taylor, who had shifted to fullback from first-five in the final quarter, ripped his legs out from under him and right wing Johnny McNicholl then grabbed a crucial turnover.

"There was a bit of shock that someone had broken through," Taylor said.

"He had a bit of space and I had to go quite hard there for that last little bit. Our defence, to be honest, throughout the match was outstanding and I think that's what did it for us. We made hits and made turnovers at the right moments. Besides that one moment it was probably the winning of the game for us."

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Having earlier pushed the conversion of Fonotia's try wide, Taylor made adjustments to the way he struck his ball as he lined up the vital penalty.

"The one that I missed, I was disappointed because I actually kicked it where I aimed it. I wasn't sure which way (the wind) was going to go ... With the next one I just had to hit the next one down the middle and trust it."

- The Press

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