A late try to captain Kieran Read has carried the Crusaders to a tense 19-14 win over the Sharks in Durban, leaving no unbeaten teams in Super Rugby.
The South African side suffered their first loss, starved of possession by a dominant Crusaders forward pack who bossed the scrums and snatched a swag of lineout possession.
However, the visitors failed to translate their dominance into points, eventually needing Read’s try in the 72nd minute to see off the stubborn hosts, whose two tries were long-range, opportunistic scores to winger Lwazi Mvovo.
The Sharks record drops to three wins, one draw and a loss while the Crusaders have now won three in a row after dropping their opening match against the Chiefs.
It also means New Zealand teams are unbeaten in their last 11 games against offshore opponents in the expanded competition.
The Crusaders cause wasn’t helped by sloppy goalkicking display from first five-eighth Richie Mo’unga, who missed four of five shots, including three handy penalty chances.
His one success was the conversion of a 25th-minute try to fullback David Havili, who capitalised on a slick offload from winger Nemani Nadolo.
Mvovo levelled the scores 7-7 just before halftime when he intercepted Mo’unga’s pass and raced 60m.
The speedy winger was at it again just after the break, pouncing on a loose ball 40m out and outpacing the cover defence.
The Crusaders’ hopes appeared to nosedive when Havili was shown a yellow card for a relatively innocuous push off the ball.
However, they responded with a try to Nadolo and nearly had another to wing Johnny McNicholl from long range but centre Kieron Fonotia put his foot on the touchline.
It took a short pass from Ellis to put Read across, cracking a Sharks defence which hadn’t conceded a second-half try in any game this season.
The Crusaders’ tour continues with games against the Lions and Force.