Crusaders stay unbeaten, defeat Force 45-17 in Super Rugby

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Digby Ioane of the Crusaders scores a try. Super Rugby Round Five.

Digby Ioane of the Crusaders scores a try. Super Rugby Round Five. (Photo: Martin Hunter / photosport.nz)

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — The Crusaders maintained their unbeaten start to Super Rugby when they beat the Western Force 45-17 to open the fifth round on Friday.

In contrast to their last three matches in which they came from behind to win — after trailing by 18, 21 and 19 points respectively — the Crusaders led the Force throughout to win by seven tries to two.

But after leading 28-17 at halftime, the Crusaders struggled to drive home their advantage in the second half, and their winning margin was inflated by two tries in the last 10 minutes.

Also, center David Horwitz scored an 80th-minute try to give the New South Wales Waratahs a 32-25 comeback win over Melbourne, leaving the Rebels winless after four matches.

The Rebels led 25-6 at halftime but were kept scoreless in the second half.

The Perth-based Force, who have been competitive but won only one of their first four matches, put pressure on the Crusaders, especially at scrums in the early part of the second half. But they were unable to capitalize on the period of intense pressure, and the Christchurch-based Crusaders were able to re-establish control and post a convincing victory.

Rain late in the match made ball-handling difficult and the game lost most of its structure after halftime.

"We can't make the weather an excuse," Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock said. "We've got to trust our ball skills and make better decisions. They came out and really tested us."

In Melbourne, the Rebels led by 19 points at halftime but after losing three players — hooker James Hanson and locks Dom Day and Culum Retallick — due to concussion protocols, New South Wales whittled away at the lead before its late clinching try.

Melbourne's Reece Hodge scored two tries and kicked two penalties and two conversions for a 20-point first-half tally.

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