Crusaders put Rebels to the sword
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: Four first-half tries set the tone for the Crusaders to bag a 41-19 victory over the Rebels in Melbourne on Saturday and remain the only unbeaten side in the competition.
This was 80 minutes of all-out rugby in which the Rebels certainly played their part.
When the Crusaders led 31-7 at half time, shades of last years 85-pointer by the Crusaders seemed a real possibility, but, bless the Rebels, they came back from the break with renewed energy and determination and actually won the half 12-10. The game was won by half-time but the Rebels did not capitulate.
In the second half the Rebels had more and more of the ball by hanging onto it and that paid off. The Rebels used the phases to keep possession whereas in the first half the Crusaders preferred the vigorous strike to the tap-tap of phases. The visitors in black and grey hit hard and often for their four tries.
They were leading 10-0 when Reece Hodge was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on. When Hodge came back from the penitential chair, the score was 31-7. The Crusaders scored only 10 more points in the match.
The Rebels, with Nic Stirzaker back from injury, kicked off, and immediately the Crusaders started attacking. They had a good scoring opportunity but Israel Dagg lost the difficult pass. They attacked again and, when the Rebels were penalised at a tackle, Richie Mo'unga kicked a penalty goal for a 3-0 lead after 8 minutes. It was the only penalty aimed at the posts in a match when both sides preferred to go for tries.
David Havili, who was the main attacking weapon on the field, set in motion the rapid attack that led to the first try. He started it with a counterattack off a knock-on and then lock Sam Whitelock dummied and broke with power. When he crashed to ground the Crusaders went left where Havili gave a perfect pass to wing Manasa Mataele who scored in the left corner. Mo'unga converted from touch. 10-0 after 18 minutes.
The Crusaders continued attacking. They twice turned a penalty into a five-metre line-out. The second, after Hodge had been sent away, they mauled to the goal-line substitute Jed Brown was the one credited with the try after the TMO could find no reason not to award the try. 17-0 after 26 minutes.
When the Crusaders' were penalised inside the Rebels 22, Stirzaker and they ran. This was perhaps a turning point in the match as this is how they played for the rest of the match, despite the eventual outcome. The tap raced downfield for a line-out to the Crusaders just five metres from their line. The Crusaders ran down the left and it was their trow-in just inside the Rebels 22. They threw in quickly and went wide right. Back they came left and big Seta Tamanivalu simply ignore the defence as he burst over to score. 24-0 after 31 minutes.
But these were the renewed Rebels. They kicked a penalty out deep in Crusader territory. They won the line-out and flank Colby Fainga'a peeled wide and then did a backflip inside to Marika Koroibete who went untouched through a hole to score at the posts. 24-7 after 33 minutes.
The Crusaders mixed up backs and forwards in advancing phases. From wide left they went wide right where Sam Whitelock, pretending to be an outside centre, gave Brown a perfect try in the right corner. From touch Mo'unga again converted while Brown, in old-fashioned style, lay down to hold the ball. 31-7 after 35 minutes.
The Rebels fullback Ben Volavola had a strong run, just before the break.
From the kick-off to start the second half, the Crusaders lost the ball and the Rebels went on a series of pick-'n-goes which ended when prop Toby Smith scored. 31-14.
The Rebels flag stopped fluttering when Mataele charged down the left, shucking off two would-be tacklers. Near the goal-line he passed inside but to a Rebel. The Rebels kicked, the Crusaders countered going wide right and then back left where Tim Bateman got into a halfgap and slipped a little pass to Havili who beat three defenders to score. 36-14 after 46 minutes.
Amanaki Mafi, the Japanese international had had a match of mixed fortunes. Early he had survived a concussion test. He is strong and fast. He was at his fastest when the galloped down the left win, ball in one hand and then popped a pass inside to Koroibete who scored his second try. 36-19 after 58 minutes, and both sides running with intent.
The Crusaders moved downfield with interpassing till No.8 Jordan Taufua raced past Mafi and gave inside to substitute scrumhalf Mitch Drummond who scored. 41-19, an important score as it came at a time when the Rebels were on the up.
The scoring ended here.
In all this creative running, mention should be made of the scrumhalves' role, for it was their quick, accurate passing that gave the backs to space to un in. Bryn Hall was probably the best of the excellent quartet.
Man of the Match: There were many candidates but our choice is David Havili, creative, fast and strong on attack and defence.
For the Rebels:
Tries: Koroibete 2, Smith
Cons: Volavola, Hodge
For the Crusaders:
Tries: Mataele, Brown 2, Tamanivalu, Havili, Drummond
Cons: Mo'unga 4
Yellow card: Reece Hodge (Rebels, 25; Deliberate knock-on)
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Ben Volavola, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tom English, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Nic Stirzaker (captain), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga'a, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Fereti Sa'aga, 18 Laurie Weeks, 19 Esei Ha'angana, 20 Hugh Sinclair, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Mitch Inman, 23 Jonah Placid.
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Manasa Mataele, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Peter Samu, 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5 Samuel Whitelock (captain), 4 Quinten Strange, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jed Brown, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 George Bridge.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Damon Murphy (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)