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Crusaders crush Force 53-0 in Super 14

7th April 2007, 20:15 WST

Western Force coach John Mitchell admitted his side went missing as they set several unwanted franchise records in a horror 53-0 loss to six-time Super rugby champions the Crusaders in Christchurch.

It was the first time the Force had been held scoreless in a Super fixture, with 53 points their biggest losing margin and score conceded.

And adding injury to insult, Force hooker Brendan Cannon was taken to hospital for a precautionary x-ray after he was stretchered off near full-time following a collapsed scrum.

The Western Australian team endured the ultimate reality check after three straight wins as they dropped one spot to fourth on the Super 14 ladder.

The rampaging Crusaders notched their fourth straight win and consolidated second place on the ladder as they became the first team to record 100 Super victories.

They scored eight tries, seven of them by the forwards, with lock Ross Filipo notching a second-half hat-trick and replacement Kieran Read crossing twice.

Mitchell said he told his players the crushing defeat came as a consequence of them watching and waiting.

"We just went missing tonight, we're going to have to regroup from this performance, a very disappointing performance," Mitchell said.

Second-half substitute Cannon, the oldest player on the Force roster, who celebrated his 34th birthday on Thursday, was tended to for several minutes on the ground following a collapsed scrum.

Team officials were optimistic it was not a serious injury, though they said the Wallabies hooker might stay in hospital overnight.

"He got a bit of a stinger in the arm and bearing in mind that` he had surgery a year ago in the same area, it's just a precaution," Mitchell said.

The Force suffered no other significant injuries, though Mitchell wryly suggested his players had "probably more ice on the head than the bones and the muscles".

The visitors dominated the first few minutes, but were otherwise outplayed by a relentless Crusaders side which cantered to their 25th straight win at their Jade Stadium fortress.

Winger Cameron Shepherd missed with his only penalty attempt from 48 metres on the stroke of half-time and the Force created virtually no try-scoring opportunities as the Crusaders dominated possession and territory.

No.8 Mose Tuiali'i was the chief architect of the home team's 22-0 half-time lead.

The All Blacks forward's powerful running and ability to offload led to him setting up two of their three first-half tries for winger Rico Gear and Read and scoring the third himself.

Outstanding Filipo clinched a try-scoring bonus point two minutes into the second half and smashed over the line again with nine minutes left, before completing his hat-trick in the final seconds.

Crusaders captain and flanker Richard McCaw rounded off a brilliant ensemble move for another try just after the hour, while Read added his second try with five minutes to go.

The visitors forced several ruck and maul turnovers but invariably squandered possession with some poor passing and handling.

One positive Mitchell extracted from the rout was the form of his winger Digby Ioane, who he said worked hard in defence and attack.

AAP

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