Crusaders held to draw by Stormers after last-ditch penalty goal

The Crusaders have been held to a draw by a South African side for the second time in the space of three weeks.

A Jean-Luc du Plessis penalty goal after the hooter salvaged the Stormers a 19-19 draw with the reigning champions in Cape Town on Sunday morning (NZT). 

Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock could only shake his head, knowing the penalty Nic Berry blew for a high shot by replacement prop Oli Jager was touch and go. 

There was no doubt also lingering frustration from the contentious TMO call in the 75th minute, when South African Marius Jonker rubbed out what appeared to be a superb game-clinching try by wing Sevu Reece.

He had been awarded a fabulous chip and chase try, much like the one he scored against the Lions recently, only for Jonker to step in and rule Braydon Ennor's pass in the build up was forward. 

The Crusaders, who outscored the Stormers three tries to one, believed it went backwards out the hand. The Stormers earned a penalty from the resulting scrum on halfway, setting up their final raid. 

Including the cancelled match against the Highlanders in March, the Crusaders have now drawn three matches this season. 

Two weeks after a 21-21 deadlock with the Sharks, the two competition points increased their lead over the Hurricanes to nine points in the New Zealand conference, but there is no doubt they will be frustrated not to have further cashed in after the Hurricanes were upset by the Jaguares in Wellington on Friday night. 

When they review the match, the Crusaders will likely rue the fact they turned down an easy penalty goal with time up in the first half, only to walk away empty handed after the Stormers rebuffed their rolling maul. 

Having had captain Kieran Read scratched before kickoff, the Crusaders led 19-10 early in the second half, after Ennor, having briefly replaced midfielder Ryan Crotty while he received medical attention, finished off a move started by Richie Mo'unga putting Codie Taylor into space. 

But the Stormers clawed their way back into the game by playing territory and using their set piece to earn penalties.

It worked against a Crusaders team which at times refused to kick out of their own half, a ploy which cost them as they ended up on the wrong side of the penalty count (13-8). 

Starting in place of injured All Black Joe Moody (knee), loosehead prop George Bower had a difficult night up against Wilco Louw, conceding a couple of scrum penalties in the first half.

The first of them led to the set piece move the Stormers uncorked from a lineout to rock the tourists in the sixth minute, when captain Siya Kolisi burst through a gaping hole, stepped inside fullback Havili and coasted 22 metres to score under the sticks. 

With a boisterous crowd on hand, the Stormers were in the mood, turning down shots at goal and sending wave after wave at the Crusaders.

The tourists were rattled, evident by uncharacteristic handling mistakes by Jack Goodhue and Havili, which further put them under pressure. 

However, led by some feisty tackling by Matt Todd, the Crusaders limited the damage to a further penalty goal, forcing the Stormers to settle for a 10-0 lead after 17 minutes of dominance. 

The Crusaders found their feet through the strength of their rolling maul, which Todd utilised to bag the Crusaders' opening points as the half-hour mark approached. 

You could sense the momentum beginning to shift. 

Bower and the Crusaders' scrum got revenge, shunting the hosts backwards on their own line, before an under-duress Mo'unga got off a cross-field kick for Havili to latch on to and put the Crusaders 12-10 up at the break.