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Crusaders off to victorious start

CANTERBURY Crusaders center Casey Laulala completed a double in the final minute to seal a hard-fought 19-13 win for the defending champions over the Waikato Chiefs in the opening round of Super 14 yesterday.

Laulala scored his first try after just 14 minutes to give the Crusaders the early lead in Christchurch then his second off the final play of the match to secure the victory after the Chiefs had pulled back to within a point.

In another match, Australia's New South Wales Waratahs survived a fierce second half comeback to beat New Zealand's Wellington Hurricanes 26-22.

In Christchurch, wing Tim Bateman also crossed for the Crusaders while flyhalf Colin Slade, filling in for the absent Dan Carter, landed two conversions in a New Zealand derby.

The Crusaders, playing for the first time in Super 14 under new coach Todd Blackadder following Robbie Deans' switch to Australia, struggled to produce their best form in a sloppy match but were still able to win.

"I'm actually pretty happy with the way we played," Canterbury captain Richie McCaw said. "Obviously, being the first game of the season, you don't expect to be perfect, but we had our opportunities and we took them."

The Chiefs opened their account midway through the first half when outside center Richard Kahui scored a try off a bad kick from flyhalf Stephen Donald.

In Wellington, the Waratahs raced to a 19-0 lead inside the first 24 minutes after fullback Sam Norton-Knight and wings Lote Tuqiri and Lachlan Turner all scored tries but ended the game defending deep inside their own half against a wave of Hurricanes attacks.

The Hurricanes opened their account three minutes before halftime when flyhalf Daniel Kirkpatrick touched down to send the host to the break down 5-19.

Wellington started to take control of the match in the second half and closed to within four points with 17 minutes still left on the clock when hooker Dane Coles darted through a hole to score.


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