Crusaders survive Hurricanes scare
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Crusaders weather the storm to record a 20-12 victory against a hard-hitting Hurricanes side at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday.
With one try and five penalties, the Crusaders remain at the head of the table and unbeaten after 11 games while the reigning champion Hurricanes lie third in the New Zealand conference with their second defeat.
The expectation ahead of the clash was for a try-fest between two sides renowned for their determination to attack from all angles but at half-time the score was locked at 9-9 with all the points from penalties.
Eventually, it was the power of the Crusaders All Blacks-laden pack, and the smart direction of centre Ryan Crotty, that defused the Hurricanes strike power of Beauden and Jordie Barrett and kept them tryless for the first time in three years.
For the Crusaders, even without injured Kieran Read and suspended Sam Whitelock, and despite Scott Barrett (ankle) and Matt Todd (concussion) leaving the field, they still had too much power up front.
"It was such a massive effort," said Crotty who ended up captaining the side after Todd left the field.
"We didn't let them get anything going off set piece which was massive, a credit to the tight five."
The Crusaders went closest to crossing the line in the first half when Crotty took a leaf out of the Beauden Barrett playbook and sent a well-directed cross-kick towards the corner only for Seta Tamanivalu to knock the ball on.
It took until the 50th minute before Todd was able to drive over for the only try of the game with a lineout drive that forced the Hurricanes pack back more than 10 metres.
Despite dominating possession, the Crusaders let themselves down in the first half with 12 turnovers but as fast as the Hurricanes were gifted possession they lost it with ill-discipline that cost them seven penalties in 40 minutes.
It would not have escaped the attention of the All Blacks selectors that the first points came after Tamanivalu stood up Julian Savea to get the Crusaders close to the line where Richie Mo'unga landed the first of his five penalties.
It was a short-lived lead, though, with Jordie Barrett, noticeably still taking the Hurricanes kicks instead of brother Beauden, quickly landing an equaliser for the Hurricanes.
Mo'unga and the youngest of the Barrett brothers ended the first half with three penalties apiece.
But the Crusaders pack showcased their forward dominance at the start of the second half pressure the Hurricanes line until Todd scored.
With their tails up, the Crusaders forwards continued to control scrums and the breakdown, leaving the much-vaunted Hurricanes backline starved of clean possession.
But they had trouble breaking down the Hurricanes defence with the only other second-half points coming from further penalties by both Mo'unga and Jordie Barrett.
Man of the match: Hurricanes flyhalf Beauden Barrett try to keep his side in the match, but his usual kicks failed to reach its destination. Jordie Barrett showed real maturity, scoring all his side's points. Crusaders captain Matt Todd played a huge pasrt in getting his side the ball at the breakdown. However, our man of the match Crusaders centre Ryan Crotty showed that he can still dance with all the young chaps. Crotty produced some scintillating cross-kicks and put in crucial grubbers which got his team inside the Hurricanes' redzone.
Pens: Mo'unga 5
Pens: J Barrett 4
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Matt Todd (captain), 6 Peter Samu, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Manasa Mataele.
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara (captain), 8 Brad Shields, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Vaea Fifita, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Jeffery To'omaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Chris Eves.
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Ben May, 18 Loni Uhila, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Toa Halafihi, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Otere Black, 23 Wes Goosen.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Cam Stone (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
Source: Agence France-Presse