Crusaders still a force in Super 14

SYDNEY - Champions Canterbury Crusaders opened their title defence with a hard-fought win as South Africa's Northern Bulls were the early leaders after the first weekend of rugby's Super 14.

SYDNEY - Champions Canterbury Crusaders opened their title defence with a hard-fought win as South Africa's Northern Bulls were the early leaders after the first weekend of rugby's Super 14.

New Zealand's Crusaders showed they remain a force as they began life without coach Robbie Deans and star flyhalf Dan Carter by edging out the Waikato Chiefs 19-13 at home.

The Bulls topped the opening week's standings on points differential as one of five teams to take maximum points after beating the Queensland Reds 33-20 in Pretoria. They ran in four tries to the Reds' two to claim a scoring bonus point.

Australia's NSW Waratahs and ACT Brumbies both registered significant victories in New Zealand, as the Waratahs held out the Wellington Hurricanes 26-22 and the Brumbies scored a late drop goal to snatch a 33-31 win over the Otago Highlanders.

The Golden Lions produced a 34-28 win over Central Cheetahs in an all-South Africa thriller, and New Zealand's three-time champions Auckland Blues finished too strongly for Australia's Western Force 25-19 in Perth.

Coastal Sharks, semifinalists last season in the southern hemisphere provincial championship, downed the Western Stormers 20-15 in another South African derby in Cape Town. - Sapa

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