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'Adapt and be nimble': Crusaders learning from Blues-inflicted 'frustration'

By Ned Lester
Will Jordan and Beauden Barrett. (Photo by John Davidson/Photosport)

Last season’s 27-23 loss at the hands of the Blues was just the first home defeat the Crusaders have fallen to against their Auckland rivals in the previous 18 years, and the reigning champions are eager to right that wrong in front of their home crowd on Saturday night.

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The round 12 matchup pits the third and fourth-placed teams against one another in a rematch of last year’s top contenders and finalists.

Two results have gone the Crusaders’ way since 2022’s round nine defeat, with the Cantabrians claiming victory in the grand final at Eden Park and then again in round four this season.

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Captain Scott Barrett remembers the loss clearly though and is determined to make amends for the mistakes made which let the Auckland side into the match.

“I got reminded of that yesterday,” Barrett told media. “And I guess some of the learnings from that game, myself included. They frustrated us a wee bit and some of that frustration led to ill-discipline. So, it’s learning from that, and being patient and trusting what we’re going to bring and do [tonight].”

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Just two weeks removed from a loss to the table-topping Chiefs, the Crusaders’ hunger to get their game firing will be further amplified and just as he did in the previous two contests, assistant coach Scott Hansen will look to exploit any weaknesses in the Blues’ game.

“It’s good for us to be playing against the Blues because we will know where we are,” Hansen said. “We’ll get some learnings from it, and it just allows us to see where our game is at.

“Our boys get excited for these ones also, and what will be a packed crowd, the history again between the teams, they really are special games, and they are won in moments, little, critical moments within the game.

“You need to finish strong, and we probably learnt a lesson up in Hamilton, we didn’t finish the game like we’d hoped.

“It’s understanding what’s required later in the game, and some of that might not be what’s been done in the first half. So, it’s being able to adapt and be nimble in what we’re doing strategically, and around our skills as well.”

For 21-year-old lock, Zach Gallagher, who is set to make an appearance off the bench on Saturday night, the home matchup offers a shot at redemption after the Blues’ loss left a sour taste in his first Super Rugby start.

“It hurt a lot,” he said. “It was my first start, so it was pretty overwhelming playing that Blues game.”

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