Christchurch - Flyhalf Matt Giteau led a second-half comeback as the Western Force drew 23-23 with the Crusaders in Super 14 match on Saturday.
Giteau kicked two conversions and three penalties - 14 points - and created second-half tries for Haig Sare and James O'Connor as the Force came from 14 points down to record a second 23-23 draw against the Crusaders in the past three years.
Defending champions Crusaders scored first-half tries through centres Ryan Crotty and Tim Bateman and lock Isaac Ross to lead 20-6 at half-time. They were leading 23-9 after 52 minutes.
Battered and bruised
Giteau's solo break in the 59th minute created a try for Sare and he provided the final pass in a try for O'Connor, after 67 minutes, from which his conversion tied the scores.
Crusaders flyhalf Steve Brett missed a penalty in the 73rd minute that could have given the hosts the win.
Wallabies star Giteau ended the match battered and bruised but helped the Perth-based team improve their championship standing while the injury-hit Crusaders remained without a win in their past four matches.
"I'm very proud of the boys," Force captain Nathan Sharpe said. "We put a lot of pressure on their line in the first half and that paid dividends.
"It's a funny old thing, a draw, but we'll take it better than a loss."
Giteau and Crusaders flyhalf Steve Brett exchanged penalties in the seventh and ninth minutes of the match before Crusaders’ first try, to Crotty off a long pass from Brett, gave the home side an 8-3 lead.
'Played pretty well'
Bateman scored from a fortuitous bounce off the upright in the 14th minute and Ross scored an outstanding team try in the 33rd minute to put the Crusaders ahead 20-6 at the interval.
Giteau and Brett again exchanged penalties to start the second half, but Brett's 52nd-minute goal was Crusaders' last score.
Giteau made Sare's try in the 59th minute and O'Connor's in the 67th while Crusaders had All Blacks fullback Leon MacDonald in the sin-bin.
"We played pretty well in the first half and got out to a good lead but right at the end there we couldn't quite hold on," Crusaders captain Kieran Read said.
Crusaders: 23 (Ryan Crotty, Tim Bateman, Isaac Ross tries; Stephen Brett conversion, 2 penalties);
Western Force: 23 (Haig Sare, James O'Connor tries; Matt Giteau 2 conversions, 3 penalties). HT 20-6 Canterbury.