Crusaders edge brutal arm-wrestle
Crusaders edge brutal arm-wrestleSHARE
The Crusaders put their Super Rugby campaign firmly back on track with a one-point win over the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.
The 18-17 triumph, in testing conditions, produced just one try, but a very high injury count – with three players leaving the field with concussion and one being yellow carded for foul play.
More players could have, and perhaps should have, spent time in the sin bin for off-the-ball incidents.
In the end the Crusaders showed greater composure to come back after the Chiefs had taken a 17-9 lead at half-time, with six Colin Slade penalties – three in each half – proving the difference.
There was a late change for the Chiefs. With less than an hour to go to kick-off Asaeli Tikoirotuma withdrew due to injury. Jordan Payne replaced him on the left wing, and Dwayne Sweeney moved in on the bench.
The key features of a brutal first half was the number of concussion tests – Liam Squire, Kieran Read and Tawera Kerr-Barlow all taking heavy blows.
And the Squire incident resulted in Crusaders lock Dominic Bird spending 10 minutes in the sin bin for a dangerous and vicious shoulder charge on the Chiefs No.8. Squire failed his test and so did Read – meaning they sat out the rest of the game.
With heavy rain coming down soon after the start of the match, the first half scoring consisted mostly of penalties – Colin Slade opening the scoring in the fifth minute, then making it 6-0 in the ninth, before Gareth Anscombe put the defending champion Chiefs on the board in the 14th minute.
Slade kicked his third penalty in the 16th minute, for a commanding 9-3 lead – given the conditions.
But then the game changed dramatically
Bird lost his head, launched his substantial frame into the head of Squire while leading with a pointed shoulder and got his marching orders.
In his absence Anscombe kicked penalties in the 30th, 32nd and 38th minutes to put the Chiefs in the lead.
It must be added that Read's departure for concussion could also have done with a re-look by the referee and the TMO – as they did in the case of Squire – as a swinging arm to the jaw is what put the Crusaders captain out of the game.
Right on the half-time hooter Tom Marshall found a way through the tight Crusaders defence to get the game's opening try – rubbing salt into the visitors' wounds. The conversion attempt was not on target, but the 17-9 lead at the break had put the Chiefs in a commanding position – 14 unanswered points after Bird's brain explosion.
The Chiefs had a great opportunity inside the first five minutes after the break to get another score that, potentially, would have ended the game as a contest. However, great commitment by the Crusaders turned defence into attack – as they held their line well through more than 10 phases just a metre out.
That allowed them to win a turnover and get to the other side of field where Slade slotted his fourth penalty – 12-17 with just over half-an-hour to go on the clock.
Slade had two more opportunities to close the gap – hitting the upright in the 52nd and 67th minutes – before he slotted one from right in front in the 68th minute. And with eight minutes to go he slotted his sixth penalty to regain the lead – 18-17.
The two teams threw everything at each other and there were a number of turnovers, till the Chiefs won a penalty well after the full-time hooter.
Anscombe, from 55 metres out, was just short – leaving the Crusaders with a one-point win.
Man of the match: You can always look at players like Brodie Retallick, Tanerau Latimer, Sam Cane and Liam Messam for commitment. Tom Marshall was by no means flawless, but he was the one player who looked like he could provide the spark that could light up the match in the damp conditions. Matt Todd was again and all-action figure on the park and Jordan Taufua also made a great contribution. However, our award goes to Crusaders flyhalf Colin Slade. His composure helped the Crusaders when things threatened to go pear-shaped and his goal-kicking kept them in touch on the scoreboard and eventually won the match.
For the Chiefs:
Try: T Marshall
Pens: Anscombe 4
For the Crusaders:
Pens: Slade 6
Yellow card: Dominic Bird (Crusaders, 28 – foul play, dangerous shoulder charge)
Chiefs: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jordan Payne, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam (captain), 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Matt Symons, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Dwayne Sweeney.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Tom Taylor, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Luke Whitelock, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 Tyler Bleyendaal, 23 Adam Whitelock.
Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)