Vodacom Super 14
Crusaders slump to shock loss
Perth - The Western Force overcame a 13-0 halftime deficit to beat Crusarders 24-16 Friday and prevent the seven-time champion Crusaders from taking over first place in Super 14 rugby.
Pekahou Cowan, Matthew Hodgson and Ben Whittaker scored tries in the final 40 minutes as the Force won for only the third time in 10 matches.
The Crusaders loss left the top four teams in the tournament level with 34 points each. The Stormers, which lost to the Queensland Reds 16-13 earlier Friday, were in first place on points differential ahead of the Crusaders, the defending champion Bulls and the Reds.
A late penalty goal by the Force's David Hill prevented the Crusaders from picking up a bonus point for losing by seven or fewer points.
The clinching Force try was set up by a 60-meter sprint by substitute hooker Nathan Charles.
A Dan Carter dropped goal edged the Crusaders ahead 16-14 in the 68th minute but Charles picked up a loose ball from a ruck near the Force's 22-meter line and sprinted downfield, shaking off one tackler before being brought down 20 meters short of the try line.
Charles offloaded the ball to winger Cameron Shepherd, who was taken down himself before passing the ball to Hodgson to cross over for the try.
Hill converted and hit a penalty with three minutes left to seal the Force's first win over the Crusaders.
"The Force were too good for us tonight," Crusaders captain Richie McCaw said. "We put ourselves under too much pressure. It was a good game up front, but we turned it over too much, and you just can't do that."
McCaw said the Crusaders didn't take the Force lightly.
"We were under no illusions this week coming into the match," McCaw said. "You have to be up for every game. It's a wakeup call."
Force captain Nathan Sharpe said it was a "gutsy effort" by his side.
"We got the result in the end," Sharpe said. "We've had a hard season. It was first and foremost about playing for each other."
Sharpe said his team didn't panic while trailing at halftime.
"We were confident with what we were doing," Sharpe said. "We had a lot of ball but we hadn't quite got the result."
Western Force 24 (Pekahou Cowan, Matthew Hodgson, Ben Whittaker tries; David Hill 3 conversions, penalty),
Crusaders 16 (Kahn Fotuali'i try; Daniel Carter conversion, penalty; Carter, Fotuali'i dropped goals). HT: 0-13.