Crusaders sound ominous warning
The Crusaders send an ominous warning to the other Super Rugby teams when they produced a 23-3 hammering of the Blueson Saturday.
The Crusaders send an ominous warning to the other Super Rugby teams when they produced a 23-3 hammering of the Blues in Christchurch on Saturday.
It is a result that saw them overtake the Blues on the table and take a giant step closer to securing a play-off spot with the June break looming.
In New Zealand parlance it drizzled and there was a breeze; elsewhere you would have said that it rained and the wind blew.
Despite the weather the near-capacity crowd of 17 264 and the many more and much more comfortable television viewers saw a match of astounding quality.
The handling and the running simply did not speak of inclement weather. It could have been a dry day.
It was the Crusaders' day as they pummelled the Blues into submission and a scraping of just three points, their first single -figure score after 97 Super Rugby matches.
The Crusaders had an early setback when Corey Flynn pulled a hamstring in the warm-up and was replaced by Ben Funnell, a cousin of all those Whitelocks. Their line-outs faltered in the first half but were fine in the second, and their scrumming was a major part of the pummelling.
With a boyish smile Andy Ellis led the Crusaders out because it was his 100th Super Rugby match since his debut in the great Crusaders side of 2006.
The Blues kicked off and they dominated, going through phases, ruling possession and territory with the Crusaders confined to tackling and a surprising amount of kicking by Dan Carter, not all of it good kicking. But then the Crusaders scored first. That seemed to dent Blues confidence. The trouble may we'll have started with a Blues attack.
They got the ball to Rene Ranger out on the left wing and the big man brushed past Tom Marshall and ploughed over Tom Taylor before stumbling to ground. A ruck formed and the ball came back to the Blues but there was nobody to play it. Ellis picked it up and passed it to Luke Romano and what a magnificent sight followed as the huge man strode down the right wing, too fast for Piri Weepu and sweeping inside Jackson Willison. He had support on either side from Dan Carter and George Whitelock but producing the ball was too much and Charles Piutau tackled him. There was no score but it seemed that Blues hegemony was destroyed and the Crusaders took over.
They had two special strings to their bow - their scrummaging and their tackling. The reconstituted Blues' front row with Angus Ta'avao, and Tim Perry was no match for Owen Franks and Wyatt Crockett. The Blues put the ball into 11 scrums. Every one collapsed. With resets there were more collapses than scrums.
There was a difference in the tackling as well. The Crusaders were more aggressive. They put their shoulders into tackles while the Blues used just their arms, enabling the Crusaders to forge forward in the tackle.
There were few penalties to start the match but Ali Williams was penalised at successive tackles and Tom Taylor had an easy kick at goal after the second. 3-0 after 22 minutes.
The Crusaders again put pressure back on the Blues and Chris Noakes tried a chip kick near his 22. Ryan Crotty charged it down, gathered the bouncing ball and scored a try. 10-0 after 26 minutes.
Romano was penalised for a shoulder-only tackle and Noakes goaled. 10-3 after 29 minutes.
Then the Blues suffered a major setback on the stroke of half-time.
The Crusaders attacked from a free kick at a scrum and looked like scoring a try when Zac Guildford passed to Wyatt Crotty on his left with Romano outside of him and about 15 metres for the line. The last Blues defender Culum Retallick stuck out a right hand and knocked the ball into touch. The referee and the TMO considered a penalty try but settled for a penalty and a yellow card for Retallick. Taylor goaled the angled penalty. 13-3 at half-time.
Just before Retallick returned from the sin bin, the Blues were penalised for collapsing a line-out maul. Carter kicked out again for a line-out maul and penalty. This produced a warning for the Blues and Carter kicked out for a five-metre line-out. The Crusaders mauled and drove over the line for a try credited to Owen Franks. 20-3 after 49 minutes.
There was only one more score in the half - a penalty by Taylor when Perry was penalised at a tackle.
Only one more score but lots of endeavour. The Blues were close to scoring when Francis Saili broke but Guildford managed to bring him to ground.
Really it was the Crusaders' game and they thoroughly deserved the win. If you were to bet on who would win the 2013 Super Rugby title, you would proibablybe wise to bet on the Crusaders.
Man of the Match: Their tight five did most to win the match. They destroyed the Blues in the scrum sand won five of their line-outs and were still a part of that deadly tackling machine. Our Man of the Match is the Crusaders' Tight Five - Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Ben Funnell and Wyatt Crockett.
For the Crusaders:
Tries: Crotty, Franks
Cons: Taylor 2
Pens: Taylor 3
For the Blues:
Yellow card: Culum Retallick (Blues, 40 - professional foul, deliberate knock-down)
Crusaders: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Dominic Bird, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Adam Whitelock, 22 Israel Dagg.
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (captain), 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Francis Saili.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
TMO: Keith Brown (New Zealand)