Crusaders dominate Southern scrap
Crusaders dominate Southern scrapSHARE
The Crusaders cruised to a 24-8 victory over the Highlanders in Christchurch on Saturday, handing the visitors their eighth consecutive defeat.
Possession is nine tenths of the law, they say. It was nine tenths of this match as well, as the Highlander found getting first phase possession too often beyond their capability. Their line-outs were largely a mess and in the scrums the Crusaders largely destroyed them.
It meant that the Highlanders spent most of their match defending, often up and down their own line. It does not say much for the Crusaders' attack that they managed just two tries.
For the second try, just before the end, they spent a long, long time on the Highlanders' line with four five-metre scrums, two five-metre line-outs and three penalties before Tom Taylor got over in the corner and then it needed the TMO to advise that he had scored a try.
Admittedly, it was not a great night – windy and wet – and it was not a great crowd. But one would have expected more from the home side, traditionally a great attacking team.
Unlike the Force match, which the Crusaders were bitter about losing, the Crusaders' opponents were this time the team penalised at scrums – four times, and Wyatt Crockett, penalised in Perth and penalised often in Super Rugby, was not penalised at scrums though he managed to give away two other penalties.
The Crusaders played with the weather in the first half and – sign of things to come – they won the first Highlanders' line-out and bashed on the attack, this after the Highlanders had opted for a line-out. They had a scrum and bashed some more but strong Robbie Fruean was held up, producing a five-metre scrum.
The Highlanders' were freekicked for early engagement, Luke Whitelock tapped and the Crusaders bashed again before going wide where Fruean knocked on. They charged Hayden Parker's kick but the ball flew into touch and the Highlanders just managed to get the ball back from their own line-out and clear. From the line-out the Crusaders attacked again. Tyler Bleyendaal missed a penalty kick at goal but the Crusaders carried on attacking. This passage of play was part of the game's pattern.
Owen Franks was sent to the sin bin for punching Jarrad Hoeata, which stopped the attack for a while. But then Andrew Hore was offside and Bleyendaal goaled. 3-0 after 14 minutes – so much effort and so many opportunities for so little!
Aaron Smith stole the ball from a Crusaders' scrum and the Highlanders had an exciting moment but that ended in a brawl. The Highlanders were to be penalised but the referee, his assistant and the TMO identified Crockett as guilty of charging in from afar to take up cudgels. But Parker missed the penalty kick.
From a five-metre scrum, the Crusaders went wide left where Zac Guildford was just short of scoring as Ma'a Nonu tackled him into touch.
Bleyendaal scored two penalty goals two minutes apart as first Tony Woodcock was penalised at a scrum and then Josh Bekhuis at a tackle. 9-0 after 30 minutes.
The Crusaders won a turnover off Parker and went wide left. Guildford had an overlap but he knocked on a difficult pass from Israel Dagg.
Then – alleluia – the Crusaders scored a try. In the last minute of the half they had a scrum six metres from the Highlanders' line. They went right and came back left where Fruean, running on a diagonal, scored despite the efforts of Hore, Chris King and Parker to stop him. That made the score 16-0 at half-time.
The Highlanders had the weather in the second half and their line-outs were slightly improved. They won a line-out and attacked. wide on the right where Tony Ensor was close. Nonu was close and just when a try seemed likely Parker slipped.
The Crusaders were penalised, the Highlanders tapped and Nonu was close. The ball came back to Aaron Smith who threw a magnificent long pass to unmarked Jason Emery, who scored in the left corner. The conversion hit the upright. 16-5 after 44 minutes.
Hoeata and TJ Ioane, one of the hardest-working players on the field, were penalised at a tackle and Bleyendaal goaled. 19-5.
The Crusaders attacked on the left where Guildford had a run. He passed inside to Ellis who had nobody in front of him but a long race for the line. Brilliantly Ben Smith caught him from behind. Ellis popped the ball to Corey Flynn who knocked on, and the Highlander survived what could have been a knock-out blow.
The Crusaders attacked form a line-out. Guildford was close and Romano closer. Franks was over but the TMO advised the referee that he had infringed before doing so.
The Highlanders got away and Parker goaled a penalty. 19-8. The penalty count in the match was 11-8 to the Crusaders but it tells a tale of territorial supremacy that Parker kicked at goal twice whereas Bleyendaal kicked at goal from penalties five times and it could have been several more if the Crusaders had not opted to go for tries from kickable penalties.
Then the Crusaders settled to a long siege of the Highlanders' line. The visitors' defence has often been suspect in the past but this time it was staunch as it withstood penalties, line-outs and scrums all within give metres of their line. Eventually the Crusaders went left to Taylor who beat Ensor and just got over as Nonu and John Hardy did their best to keep him out. 24-8. That was the final score.
Man of the Match: Not easy in such a match but our choice is Ben Smith – a player with skill, speed, vision, courage and such a positive attitude.
For the Crusaders:
Tries: Fruean, Taylor
Pens: Bleyendaal 4
For the Highlanders:
Yellow card: Owen Franks (Foul play, 12 minutes)
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock (captain), 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Dominic Bird, 19 Jordan Taufua, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tom Taylor, 22 Adam Whitelock.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Tony Ensor, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 TJ Ioane, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Chris King, 2 Andrew Hore (captain), 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Ma'afu Fia, 18 Jamie Mackintosh, 19 Elliot Dixon, 20 Fumiaki Tanaka, 21 Colin Slade, 22 Jake Paringatai.
Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)