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McCaw injury takes shine off Otago's triumph

ALL Blacks captain Richie McCaw sustained a potentially serious knee injury in the Otago Highlanders' 6-0 win over the Canterbury Crusaders in Super 14 rugby yesterday.

Canterbury's McCaw was assisted from the field in the 30th minute with what was initially thought to be a knee ligament problem. His injury was a concern for All Blacks coach Graham Henry, who was among the spectators at the match in Dunedin.

Otago flyhalf Daniel Bowden kicked penalties in the 66th and 70th minutes - the only scores in what was the lowest scoring game in the 14-year history of Super rugby - to lift his team to victory over the Crusaders, the defending champions.

Bowden's first penalty came from the first scoring opportunity for either side and his second clinched Otago's second straight win over Canterbury in Super 14.

It was the first time the Crusaders were held scoreless in Super rugby.

It was the first win of the season for the Highlanders and the third straight loss for the Crusaders, under new coach Todd Blackadder, who are in danger of shedding their Super 14 title without reaching the playoffs.

"We had a clear mindset coming into this game," Otago captain Jimmy Cowan said. "We just wanted to win. We've been working hard during the week throughout the competition but not coming away with the win on Saturday. They've work hard and they deserved it."

Elsewhere yesterday, South Africa's Sharks edged the Auckland Blues 35-31; and the Wellington Hurricanes beat another South African side the Cheetahs 29-12.

In Auckland, South Africa captain John Smit scored a try with nine minutes remaining to help the Sharks withstand a late challenge from the Blues.

Smit crashed over after his side had chased a clearing kick downfield when Blues winger Joe Rokocoko lost the ball in the tackle while diving for the line at the other end.

Smit, the Springbok hooker, came on as a replacement tighthead prop in the second half and left the field with blood pouring from a gash in his forehead immediately after his try had given his side a 35-21 lead.

A penalty from Auckland flyhalf Jimmy Gopperth bought the home side within striking distance with seven minutes left. Rokocoko scored a last-gasp try, which Gopperth converted to earn the Blues a bonus point, but it was too little too late.


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