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Waratahs stun Crusaders to become second Australian team to beat Kiwi side

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Pete Dovgan/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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The NSW Waratahs have lit up Leichhardt Oval with a rousing 24-21 Super Rugby Pacific win over the mighty Crusaders.

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The Waratahs turned on the razzle dazzle then resisted a fierce second-half fightback from the 12-times champions to claim their first New Zealand scalp in three years.

Former sevens star Dylan Pietsch had a blinder, the winger bagging the game’s first try in the opening minute in a dream start for the home team.

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Aotearoa Rugby Pod | Episode 11
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Aotearoa Rugby Pod | Episode 11

Pietsch ran himself so ragged he had to be replaced with eight minutes remaining of a pulsating contest between the two great trans-Tasman rivals.

Fellow winger Mark Nawaqanitawase also crossed early as the Waratahs stunned the Crusaders to lead 14-0 after only 10 minutes.

Winless last season but now emerging as serious title contenders this year, the Waratahs received a standing ovation at halftime after keeping the Crusaders scoreless in an enormous defensive display to complement their champagne attacking rugby.

The Tahs also dominated the breakdown, with the tireless flankers Michael Hooper and Charlie Gamble effecting eight turnovers to the Crusaders’ one.

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But the Crusaders were always bound to test the Tahs’ mettle in the second half.

NSW captain Jake Gordon on Friday stressed the importance of having 15 players on the field at all times after being reduced to 13 men early in last week’s frustrating loss to the Chiefs.

Gordon wouldn’t have been pleased to see No.8 Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco being yellow carded for illegally holding a player up after a Crusaders penalty try early in the second stanza.

They held out while a man down for 10 minutes but the Crusaders’ relentless pressure eventually told when Sione Havili Talitui forced his way over to cut NSW’s lead to three points on the hour mark.

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The Crusaders, though, copped some of their own medicine when Hamish Dalzell was red-carded for a dangerous tackle on Hooper, who had to leave the field in a dazed state.

The Waratahs took full advantage of their one-man advantage with a rolling maul penalty try that also led to Crusaders flanker Pablo Matera being yellow-carded.

Down to 13 men and by 10 points on the scoreboard, the champion Crusaders rallied with a late try to Fletcher Newell but the Waratahs couldn’t be denied a memorable win.

Only their second defeat in their past 27 clashes with Australian opposition, the Crusaders paid the full price for resting four All Blacks, including star playmaker Richie Mo’unga.

The victory reduced young Waratahs flyhalf Tane Edmed, the son of former Balmain Tigers prop Steve Edmed, to tears.

“I don’t know what to say, honestly,” Edmed told Stan Sport on the very same ground on which his father made his name 30 years ago.

“I’ve got 30 friends and family up there in the stands. I love these boys the crowd tonight was just outstanding.

“I can’t believe it.”

Waratahs 24 (Tries to Dylan Pietsch, Mark Nawaqanitawase and penalty try; 2 conversions and penalty goal to Tane Edmed)

Crusaders 21 (Tries to Sione Havili Talitui, Fletcher Newell and penalty try; conversion to Fergus Burke, conversion to Simon Hickey)

– MORE TO COME

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