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Super Rugby: Crusaders crush off-colour Reds to reach semi-finals
The Crusaders ran in four tries as they produced a forceful display to crush the Reds 38-9 and book a place in the Super Rugby semi-finals.
Ryan Crotty grabbed a brace while Dan Carter and Tom Marshall both touched down as the Christchurch-based franchise reached the final four with an emphatic performance which combined pace and power on Saturday.
It was the hosts who seized the early initiative as Carter opened his points tally in the third minute as the Reds were penalised for indiscipline at the breakdown.
All Black fly-half Carter then combined with Israel Dagg, who used his turn of pace to expose a vulnerable Reds defence before Kieran Read was held up on the line as the Crusaders raced through the gears.
There was no need for replay footage moments later when Crotty sliced open the Reds back line after a pin-point pass from Andy Ellis off the back of the scrum. The outside centre timed his run perfectly before bursting through a Jono Lance tackle on his way over the line for the opening try of the match.
Quade Cooper finally got the Reds on the scoreboard midway through the opening period with a three-pointer as he became only the 15th player to pass 600 Super Rugby points. Cooper's opposite number Carter, also a member of the 600-club, soon restored the Crusader's ten-point lead as he made light work of a scrum penalty.
The Crusaders continued to push into Reds territory as flanker George Whitelock made a forceful break before finally being brought to ground. Ellis swiftly recycled possession before the Crusaders spun the ball wide to Carter, who pressed the accelerator to leave the Reds defence in disarray as he completed his 33rd Super Rugby try.
Carter was once again the benefactor of Reds indiscipline on the cusp of half-time as Ed Quirk was penalised for holding on, allowing the 31-year-old to further his account as the Crusaders entered the break 21-6 up.
Wallaby number 10 Cooper continued his consistent performance from the tee as he dissected the uprights moments after the restart to reduce the deficit by three while his teammates struggled to find any rhythm.
The New Zealanders soon asserted their authority on the second period when Israel Dagg drew in two Reds defenders to open the door for Wyatt Crockett. Crockett was unable to break the tackles but could offload to Marshall who subsequently dove over for a third Crusaders try.
Ewen McKenzie's side found their stride midway through the half as they made strong advances into Crusaders territory but failed to capitalise on ground made. First Radike Samo was adjudged to have fallen short before winger Dom Shipperley knocked on as the Reds squandered numerous opportunities to launch a comeback.
The atmosphere lifted in the Christchurch Stadium with the introduction of All Black skipper Richie McCaw who made an immediate impact as the Crusaders won the line-out before Carter made yet another break to find Crotty who slipped through to double his tally for the evening.
With 10 minutes remaining on the clock Carter departed to a generous reception, leaving kicking duties to Tom Taylor, who duly added three points to the hosts tally as the lead extended to 29 points.
As the siren beckoned, time was running out as the Reds season came to a crashing halt as they failed to compete with a commanding Crusaders side.
The knock-out stage salvo means Todd Blackadder's men march into the Super Rugby semi-finals where they will face either the Chiefs or Bulls depending on results in Sunday's play-off.Super 15. Click here to bet.