CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — The Christchurch-based Crusaders scored nine tries in a comprehensive 61-3 win over the Fijian Drua on Friday to take outright second place at the start of the penultimate regular-season round of Super Rugby Pacific.
Winger Sevu Reece and flanker Tom Christie scored two tries each. The other tries came from All Blacks George Bridge and Braydon Ennor, Leicester Fainga’anuku, who scored his 10th of the season, and lock Sam Whitelock, who touched down in his 170th match.
Flyhalf Fergus Burke converted eight of nine tries and scored a try for 21 points.
In the other match Friday at Brisbane, the Queensland Reds scored four first-half tries for a 24-10 lead and went on to beat the other new Pacific team in the competition, Moana Pasifika, 34-22.
The Fijian Drua were more competitive than the score indicated. They carried the ball strongly into contact and ran Crusaders’ kicks well out of defense.
But the Crusaders were ruthless inside the opposition 22, stringing together long passing movements which probed both sides of the field before they broke through the defense. Most of their tries were scored wide out, making Burke’s kicking duties much tougher.
“This was a top effort by this squad,” said Crusaders captain Scott Barrett who played out of position on the blindside flanker. “They were difficult conditions against a hungry Fijian Drua side, though I guess the scoreboard doesn’t reflect that.”
The Crusaders’ lineup was under-strength and contained many new phases but still found continuity on attack. They needed only two minutes to create the first try for Fainga’anuku and scored three more before halftime when they led 28-3.
Christie, Whitelock and Reece also scored in the first half while the Drua’s only points came from a ninth-minute penalty to Teti Tela.
Burke opened the second half by converting his own try and Reece had his second after only 12 minutes.
The final quarter belonged entirely to the Crusaders who scored three more tries through Bridge, Ennor and Christie.
The Crusaders' 10th win from 13 matches moved them within two points of first-place Auckland-based Blues who play the ACT Brumbies on Saturday. The Brumbies previously shared second place with the Crusaders but now are five points behind heading into Saturday’s key clash at home.
At Brisbane, the playoff-bound Reds won for the eighth time in 13 matches. Moana Pasifika lost for the 11th time in 12 games.
Fullback Jock Campbell scored two of the Reds' first-half tries. Solomone Funaki's converted try after four minutes had given Pasifika the early lead.
Sione Tu’ipulotu scored an unconverted try six minutes into the second half to make the score 24-15. But flyhalf James O’Connor's penalty goal put Queensland up by 12 with a lead they never came close to relinquishing.
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