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Crusaders through to Super Rugby semis
22:35 AEST Sat Jul 21 2012

The Crusaders eased through to next week's Super Rugby semi-finals with a clinical 28-13 dismantling of the Bulls in Saturday's playoff in Christchurch.

The Bulls conceded too many penalties over the 80 minutes to seriously threaten the Crusaders, although they outscored the home team two tries to one.

All Blacks No.10 Dan Carter's performance was pivotal, as he racked up six penalties, a dropped goal and a conversion for a game-high 23 points.

Springboks playmaker Morne Steyn's usually-accurate kicking game went missing in action, there were botched line-outs, penalties at the breakdown and scrumtime, and some telling missed tackles.

The Crusaders capitalised efficiently, Carter slotting two early penalties as they ran strongly at the under-siege Bulls' defensive line.

The Crusaders dominated territory and possession as the first half progressed, running strongly and building phases with superb support play.

They were rewarded for good continuity after 25 minutes with the simplest of tries, Zac Guildford slicing through after Carter drew the defence before offloading for the All Black winger to cross unhindered.

Carter added the extras, then extended the Crusaders' lead with a snap dropped goal seven minutes before halftime.

Two minutes later, the Bulls' vaunted rolling maul finally gained traction, putting the Crusaders' defence under pressure for the return of a solitary penalty as the Crusaders went into the break with a 16-3 lead.

The Bulls started the second half with more intent and accuracy in building phases on attack, but coming up empty-handed as the Crusaders rebounded with two more Carter penalties.

With just under 20 minutes remaining, the Bulls finally managed to convert field position into points on the board, the rolling maul from a shortened lineout bulldozing blindside flanker Dewald Potgieter across in the corner.

Springboks midfielder Wynand Olivier crossed with three minutes remaining for the Bulls' second, but the result was never in doubt as Carter rubbed salt into the wounds with a sixth penalty right on the final whistle.

Captain Richie McCaw said the Crusaders' discipline and territorial dominance played a huge part in the win.

"Especially in the first 40 minutes, we played at the right end of the field," he told media afterwards.

"We didn't really give them any momentum, we limited our mistakes and our discipline was good."

Bulls captain Pierre Spies said the Crusaders' constant pressure proved difficult to break.

"We just couldn't get our game on the go from the start - that makes it really difficult, and you start to play catch-up rugby," he said.

"When you play the Crusaders here at home, things get really tough. I'm really proud of how we came back, but the Crusaders were too good tonight."

The Crusaders take on the Chiefs next weekend, the Chiefs enjoying a bye this weekend along with South Africa's Stormers.

The Cape Town-based Stormers next play the Durban-based Sharks who ended Queensland's season on Saturday night, winning 30-17 in Brisbane.


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