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Super Rugby: Western Force stun Crusaders in Perth
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- Brumbies take table high land
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Western Force put further distance between themselves and Super Rugby basement boys Highlanders with a shock 16-14 victory over Crusaders.
Sam Norton-Knight and Luke Romano traded first half tries but the boot of Jayden Hayward proved the difference in a hard-fought content at nib Stadium.
Victory over the seven-time champions keeps Force in fourth spot in the New Zealand conference and extends the gap between themselves and bottom-placed Highlanders to nine points.
The Force began the game with real momentum and opened the scoring in only the second minute when fly-half Norton-Knight stepped before reaching out to ground under the posts. Hayward's conversion made it 7-0 to the hosts.
Hayward was on the mark again on 11 minutes with a penalty attempt after Crusaders flank Shane Christie was pinged for a ruck offence. That made the scoreline 10-0, much to the delight of the Perth faithful.
The Crusaders needed to get a grip on the game and being without the likes of Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Dan Carter and Sam Whitelock meant they were lacking experience.
However, fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal did cut the gap on 17 minutes when a ruck offence from the Force gave the visitors their first points.
It proved to be the beginning of something of a turnaround in the game and when Luke Romano scored with a quarter played, the score was now 10-8 to the Western Force.
Full-back Hayward though added two more three-pointers before the break to send the teams in at 16-8, handing the hosts a decent cushion to work with in the second stanza.
And the Force would not trouble the scorers in the next 40 minutes as that aforementioned rugged attitude came to the fore, with the Crusaders throwing everything they had at the try-line but to no avail.
Big hits were put in all over the field from the likes of Matt Hodgson and debutant Ed Stubbs in what was a well-earned four points for the men from Western Australia.