Durban - The Crusaders ended a long-standing Sharks home winning streak with a narrow 13-10 victory over the coastal franchise at Absa Stadium on Saturday night.
The Sharks started the match like a team on a mission and got just reward for their early endeavours with Steven Sykes barging over for the opening try in the 11th minute, which was then duly converted by scrumhalf Rory Kockott.
Crusaders enjoyed some much-needed territorial ascendancy for the next 15 minutes though and eventually the points had to come. In the end, the Sharks conceded a penalty for offside and flyhalf Steve Brett opened the visitors’ account.
All Black captain Richie McCaw marked his return to the Super 14 series when he rounded off a beautifully orchestrated try that put the Crusaders into a three-point lead once Brett had added the extra two.
The match ebbed and flowed for the final quarter but the Sharks were unable to restore their advantage as the ‘Saders headed into the interval 10-7 to the good.
They extended that lead by a further three points when scrumhalf Andy Ellis snapped over a cheeky drop-goal early on after the restart.
The next quarter went by with neither side able to finish off a number of promising opportunities.
Kockott eventually managed to slot another penalty in the 70th minute to ensure it would be a highly dramatic final 10 minutes.
The Sharks launched one last desperate attack after the final hooter, but in the end they knocked the ball on, almost aptly summing up their sub-standard performance on the night.
Crusaders: Tries: Richie McCaw. Conversions: Steve Brett. Penalties: Brett. Drop Goal: Andy Ellis.
Sharks: Tries: Steven Sykes. Conversions: Rory Kockott. Penalties: Kockott.