JOHANNESBURG: A couple of late tries clinched a 28-7 victory for Canterbury Crusaders over Golden Lions Saturday in a Super 15 match at Ellis Park.
Veteran scrum-half Andy Ellis dived over on 73 minutes and replacement fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal converted to give the New Zealanders a 16-point advantage.
And a superb grubber kick from All Blacks full-back Israel Dagg at the end set up centre Kieron Fonotia for a simple try and a deserved win by the seven-time champions.
The New Zealanders lacked their three biggest stars — loose forwards Richie McCaw and Kieran Read are injured and fly-half Dan Carter is taking a sabbatical.
Crusaders were deserved victors after winning the breakdowns battle.
The New Zealanders did not allow ill discipline to creep in and gift penalties to deadly place-kicker Marnitz Boshoff.
The Lions fly-half, who tops the Super 15 scoring charts with 109 points, had just two shots at goal and narrowly missed off an angled penalty before succeeding with a conversion.
After falling 13 points behind early in the second half, the Lions gained the initiative and centre Lionel Mapoe squeezed over in the corner for a try.
That narrowed the deficit to six points and 18 point-less minutes followed before Dagg slotted a penalty after regular kicker Colin Slade was forced to retire injured.
Crusaders climbed only one place to 12th on the overall southern hemisphere championship standings and remain bottom of the New Zealand conference.
Lions stayed sixth with 16 points — seven less than compatriots and leaders Coastal Sharks — but could be overtaken by the Australian New South Wales Waratahs later yesterday.
A couple of Slade penalties following ruck infringements was a meagre return for the hard work of the Crusaders during an opening half which ended 6-0 in their favour.
Stand-in Canterbury skipper and centre Ryan Crotty claimed the first try of the game six minutes into the second half, powering over despite a brave attempt by scrum-half Faf de Klerk to stop him.
Slade converted and soon after the Lions were back in contention when a charge by flank Willie Britz toward the try-line was halted only for Mapoe to dot down.
But the Lions lacked composure when presented with further try-scoring chances.
Crusaders took control of possession and territory in the closing stages and the pressure told as the Lions suffered their heaviest loss of the season.
At Newlands, New South Wales Waratahs ended an eight-year wait for victory in Cape Town with a deserved 22-11 Super Rugby win over the hapless Stormers.
The Australian side moved into the wildcard places with the victory, achieved via a first-half opportunist try from scrumhalf Nick Phipps after the ball broke to him from a scrum.
Flyhalf Bernard Foley converted and added three penalties to go with two more from fullback Kurtley Beale as the tourists dominated territory and drew the home side into costly errors.