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Crusaders back in the race

Sat, 03 May 2014 06:26
Crusaders-v-brumbies
Scant consolation for Brumbies
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The Crusaders put their campaign firmly back on track with a 40-20 demolition of the Brumbies on Saturday.

Although the try count was only three-two in favour of the seven-time champions, the win in Christchurch - against the Australian conference leaders - allowed the Crusaders to move back into the top six.

After a scrappy start, the first half-hour producing only penalties, the Crusaders burst into life with a late first-half try and two more after the break as they dismantled the visitors in clinical fashion.

The Crusaders lost three players to injury inside the opening quarter - with Matt Todd, Kieron Fonotia and replacement Tom Taylor all being replaced.

However, this did not seem to disrupt the home team.

Coming off a bye the Crusaders looked more energetic in the opening quarter, while the Brumbies also played into their hands by engaging the home side in a kicking game - which the Crusaders clearly won.

After the break the Brumbies changed tactics somewhat, keeping the ball more in hand.

It brought initial reward, but their own high error count and lack of discipline was their undoing - as they kept handing momentum back to the Crusaders.

The game got underway with the setting sun at the back of the Brumbies.

It was marked by excessive kicking and a string of penalties - with Colin Slade turning a couple of those penalties into three pointers to make it 6-0 after 13 minutes.

The Brumbies' first shot at goal came in the 15th minute, with Nic White making it 3-6.

The penalty count continued to mount at an alarming rate - with Slade making it 9-3 in the 20th minute, before Christian Lealiifano made a real hash of his first shot at goal.

Slade slotted his fourth in 26th minute, before three transgressions in quick succession by Richie McCaw allowed the Brumbies to get close enough for White to narrow the gap to 6-12.

Slade kicked number five, before the Crusaders finally held onto the ball through enough phases for Johnny McNicholl to score the game's opening try right on the half-time hooter. Slade added the conversion, as the home team took a commanding 22-6 lead into the break.

The visitors made a strong start to the second half, keeping the ball through the phases and getting enough passes to stick - Stephan Moore at the end of a well-worked try, which included the hooker stepping Israel Dagg on his way to the tryline. White's conversion made it 13-22.

Sade responded with a sixth penalty, before Fijian wing Nemani Nadolo benefitted from a charged down kick - lock Sam Whitelock's face getting in the way of an attempted clearance - for the flyer to collect the favourable bounce and sprint over.

Slade was wide with the conversion and a long-range penalty soon afterwards, but added his seventh penalty to make it 33-13 going into the final quarter.

The backdoor was opened ever so slightly with just over 10 minutes remaining, when Crusaders replacement Luke Romano was yellow carded for repeated infringements at the breakdown - a collection of team offences, rather than an individual transgression.

However, the Brumbies' inability to get themselves back into the game as illustrated when they set up a line-out and then a maul, only to cough up the ball. That was followed by another turnover soon after, after a build-up of phases that brought them to within 10 metres of the Crusaders line.

The Crusaders rubbed salt into those festering Brumbies wounds when they scored a third try after winning a turnover and Luke Whitelock pounced on a ball that was hacked ahead. Willie Heinz added the conversion to make it 40-13.

There was enough time for Pat McCabe to grab a consolation try for the Brumbies, Matt Toomua adding the extras to make the final score 40-20 in favour of the home team.

Man of the match: Stephen Moore tried his best, as always, but received very little support from his teammates. You can look at Richie McCaw, who wasn't expected to play the full 80 minutes, but not only lasted the distance, he also managed to get away with his usual array of breakdown tricks. Sam Whitelock's workrate was again phenomenal. However, our award goes to Crusaders flyhalf Colin Slade - who produced his team's highest tackle count (well into double figures), kicked 23 points and was clinical with his out-of-hand kicking.

The scorers:

For the Crusaders:
Tries:
McNicholl, Nadolo, L Whitelock
Cons: Slade, Heinz
Pens: Slade 7

For the Brumbies:
Tries:
Moore, McCabe
Cons: Lealiifano, Toomua
Pens: White 2

Yellow card: Luke Romano (Crusaders, 68 - repeated infringements at the breakdown)

Teams:

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ryan Crotty (captain), 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Richie McCaw, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Nepo Laulala, 18 Tim Perry, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Nafi Tuitavake.

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (captain), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Jordan Smiler, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander,  Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Ruaidhri Murphy, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 Tom McVerry, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Pat McCabe.

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Ben O'Keefe (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)

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