Crusaders blitz Cheetahs
The Crusaders closed out a see-sawing encounter with the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, running in six tries to win 52-31.
Nemani Nadolo scored a hat-trick in a high-scoring encounter that marked another feather in the cap for the Crusaders, as they left South Africa with two wins from two matches.
The Cheetahs were at their entertaining best throughout and produced an impressive response from 26-10 down in the second half to lead 26-31 with three quickfire tries.
It was a test of the Crusaders' resolve playing away from home, and they more than came through.
Wyatt Crockett played a key role at the scrum up against the 22-year-old Cheetahs' tighthead Maks van Dyk, with the visitors winning an early penalty which Colin Slade converted.
The Cheetahs were dealt a blow with the early loss of Johan Goosen but they responded well, scoring the game's first try.
Enough space was made on the outside after good work from Johann Sadie, who played well, and Hannie Daniller sent Cornal Hendricks over in the corner. Elgar Watts added a superb touchline conversion minutes after coming on for a 7-3 lead.
The Crusaders have improved game-by-game in 2014 and after Slade's penalty cut down the gap, Israel Dagg scored their first try.
Chasing Matt Todd's grubber kick and in acres of space, Dagg gratefully pounced to put his side ahead on the scoreboard. The final ten minutes of the first half saw Watts and Slade both land kicks at goal, with the Crusaders ahead 19-10 at the break.
Nadolo's first try for the Crusaders after the interval left the Cheetahs facing an ominous task. Sharp handling from Kieran Read created the space down the left for Nadolo, who stepped his way inside to score.
A response was needed from the hosts and they hit back with two tries in a matter of minutes.
Sarel Pretorius was denied a breakaway try in the first half following a knock-on in the build-up, but he wasn't to be pulled back this time.
The speedster latched on to an offload from Francois Uys to race away for the far corner, adding to his two tries from last weekend against the Chiefs.
Teboho Mohoje followed him over shortly afterwards, the replacement back-rower showing good speed after he cut inside from the right wing and outpaced the cover defence to go over under the sticks, cutting the 26-10 deficit to 26-24.
The impressive recovery was then completed - Willie Le Roux scampering over for the Cheetahs' fourth try, Watts yet again adding a brilliant touchline conversion to his tally.
What did the Crusaders have left in their locker? Watching such a huge advantage on the scoreboard crumble away might have scuppered lesser sides.
They duly hit back with a try for replacement Tom Taylor, set up by a burst into the 22 from Dominic Bird with the Cheetahs unable to stop the relentless onslaught on their try line.
It put the Crusaders back in front at 31-33 with 15 minutes left, a lead that could have lasted all of a minute after Ben Funnell was penalised from the restart. Watts would have been expected to oblige having struck the ball well all evening, but missed.
Nadolo made them pay. The Fijian ran in his second try after Colin Slade broke up the middle and delivered the perfect pass for the flyer to race home and secure a try bonus point for Todd Blackadder's men.
With ten minutes left the Crusaders held a seven-point advantage and sought to tick down the clock, wary of the Cheetahs ability to strike from anywhere on the park.
There was to be no second fightback, Slade racing away unopposed down the right touchline for the Crusaders fifth try before Nadolo wrapped up the win with his hat-trick score with time up on the clock.
Tries: Hendricks, Pretorius, Mohoje, Le Roux
Con: Watts 4
Tries: Dagg, Nadolo 3, Taylor, Slade
Cons: Slade 5
Pens: Slade 4
Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Hennie Daniller, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Jean Cook, 7 Lappies Labuschagné, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacemets: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Rossouw de Klerk, 19 Andries Ferreira, 20 Teboho Mohoje, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Howard Mnisi.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ryan Crotty (c), 11 Nemani Nadolo , 10 Colin Slade, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 Tyler Bleyendaal, 23 Tom Taylor.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Francois de Bruin Francois (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)