Mitch Hunt scored a last-minute try before kicking the conversion as the Crusaders secured a 21-21 draw against the Sharks in Christchurch on Friday.
Although the home side outscored their visitors by three tries to none, the Sharks were in the lead for most of the match and were on course to secure an unlikely victory until Hunt’s last-gasp heroics.
In the end, the Crusaders fly-half finished with an 11-point haul as he also kicked three conversions, with his team’s other points coming via tries from Codie Taylor and Jack Goodhue.
Curwin Bosch contributed all the Sharks points courtesy of seven penalties.
The result ends a 25-match winning run for the Crusaders in Christchurch.
The match started brightly for the visitors and even though Bosch struck an upright with his first shot at goal, he made up for that miss when he landed a penalty in the eighth minute to open the scoring.
The Crusaders did not take long to respond though and three minutes later Taylor crossed for their opening try from close quarters after Jordan Taufua and Braydon Ennor carried strongly in the build-up.
Hunt added the extras which gave the home side a 7-3 lead but despite conceding that try, the Sharks did well to keep the champions at bay during the rest of the half, and two further penalties from Bosch meant the Sharks had their tails up at the break with the score 9-7 in their favour.
The visitors were fastest out of the blocks in the second half and they held a 15-7 lead by the 50th minute after Bosch added two further penalties.
The Crusaders needed to respond and that came in the 56th minute when Goodhue crossed the whitewash after gathering a perfectly-weighted pass from Kieran Read deep inside Sharks territory.
Hunt’s conversion was successful which meant the visitors were holding a one-point lead but the Sharks struck back with another penalty from Bosch in the 69th minute.
Bosch lined up another penalty in the 72nd minute but his long range effort was off target. He made up for that miss when he landed his seventh penalty two minutes later but it was not enough for the win as Hunt’s late try secured the draw for the hosts.
Crusaders – 21
Tries: Codie Taylor, Jack Goodhue, Mitch Hunt.
Conversions: Mitch Hunt (3).
Sharks – 21
Penalties: Curwin Bosch (7)
15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd (captain), 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Mitchell Dunshea, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Isi Tu’ungafasi, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Ethan Blackadder, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Tim Bateman
15. Aphelele Fassi 14. Sbu Nkosi 13. Lukhanyo Am 12. Andre Esterhuizen 11. Makazole Mapimpi 10. Curwin Bosch 9. Louis Schreuder (c) 8. Daniel du Preez 7. Jean-Luc du Preez 6. Philip van der Walt 5. Ruan Botha 4. Ruben van Heerden 3. Coenie Oosthuizen 2. Kerron van Vuuren 1. Thomas du Toit
Replacements : 16. Akker van der Merwe 17. Mzamo Majola 18. John-Hubert Meyer 19. Hyron Andrews 20. Jacques Vermeulen 21. Cameron Wright 22. Robert du Preez 23. Marius Louw
Match Officials and details
Date : Friday 3 May
Venue : AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 1:Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 2:James Munro
TMO : Glenn Newman