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Crusaders player ratings vs Blues | Super Rugby Pacific

By Ned Lester
Leicester Fainga'anuku scores for the Crusaders. (Photo by Peter Meecham/Getty Images)

This match had a symphony of narratives to get excited about; last year’s final rematch, the individual matchups, the All Blacks selection battle, and the rival coaches who are soon to be All Blacks leaders…

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The Blues won their match in Christchurch last season, their first win on Crusaders soil in 18 years, so both teams entered the match eager to extend the history on their side.

The Crusaders came out of the gates firing, hell-bent on playing with the ball in hand and making the Blues tackle, but as much ground as they made, the Auckland side’s defence was relentless and there were a number of clutch steals to keep the men in red and black out. Halftime score: 10-3

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A red card to Blues captain Dalton Papali’i in the second half could have sealed the Blues’ fate but the score remained low as both teams executed well defensively.

In the end, the home team outlasted their Auckland opponents, the few finishes they managed were the difference in a tight game. Final score: 15-3

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Here’s how the Crusaders rated:

1. Joe Moody – N/A

Off early with an ankle injury.

2. Codie Taylor – 8

There were signs of vintage Codie Taylor form in the early passages of the match, crisp distribution skills around the set piece and a menace at the breakdown. Taylor picking the ball up from the back of the ruck and going for a run is a glorious sight and a sign of a Crusaders side in dangerous form.

Taylor’s lineout throwing wasn’t perfect but his reliable range allowed his side to execute some deeper lineout moves.

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3. Tamaiti Williams – 9

Williams wasted no time lending his physicality to the match, busting through the middle of a lineout move and making his trademark post-contact meters. Williams was man-handling players at the breakdown, contributing well to the Crusaders’ extended phase play.

Williams was forced to switch from tighthead to loosehead after an ankle injury to Joe Moody and a temporary injury to Oli Jager, and the 22-year-old transitioned seamlessly. Beyond the plays he does make, his discipline to pull out of plays when the referee said so and avoid conceding any penalties is what makes him All Black material.

4. Scott Barrett – 8

Barrett charged his side forward straight from the kick-off, attacking the Blues’ first breakdown of the game and winning the turnover. The captain tackled everyone, from Ofa Tu’ungafasi to Caleb Clarke, claiming a team-high 13 tackles without a miss. Credit has to be given to the captain for his side remaining composed and consistently executing their defensive line and breakdown cleanouts which ultimately won them such a tight match.

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5. Quinten Strange – 6.5

The man to finally break the deadlock in the 29th minute, profiting from the work of his hooker to pick and go and find the chalk. Strange’s work at lineout time was superb, calling some more unorthodox lineout moves with the deep throws that were executed expertly.

Miscommunication on the kickoffs allowed Caleb Clarke to claim two steals, which surrendered the hard-won momentum.

6. Christian Lio-Willie – 7

Lio-Willie’s athleticism saw him active around the breakdown while providing subtle carries on attack with minor but useful post-contact meters. A number of passes showed his fluency in distribution, contributing to some dynamic attacking plays.

7. Tom Christie – 8

Christie averages one missed tackle every two games and despite the lopsided possession in this match, he made his presence felt on the defensive side of the ball. His work at the ruck was disruptive, winning his side multiple turnovers. Seven carries with five passes shows the growth in his game.

8. Cullen Grace – 7.5

Grace looked to inject his usual explosive running game into the match early, whether it was in the wide channels or picking and going off the ruck, he was making meters at an impressive rate. He didn’t have such a heavy influence in the second half but Grace had by far the most passes by any forward in the game, which speaks to his involvement on attack. His impact on defence was minimal compared to his fellow forwards.

9. Mitchell Drummond – 7.5

Drummond was operating off the back of some superb breakdown work from his forwards. The ball was constant and consistent from the No 9, whose kicking game was better in this match than previous outings. There were a couple of handy tackles around the ankles of some dangerous Blues runners too.

10. Richie Mo’unga – 8.5

Mo’unga set the pace and intensity for his team with his early touches, injecting speed into the attack and placing the ball in space for his outsides to run onto. The mercurial flyhalf found half gaps to exploit and punished any forward who found themselves matching up with the All Black 10. He beat more defenders than the entire Blues roster in the first half – although 70% possession undermines statistic that somewhat.

It was a shaky night off the tee for Mo’unga, hitting the posts on a fairly elementary-looking conversion and missing a penalty he’d usually have no issue slotting. All seven of his tackles were difficult takes but Mo’unga’s ability to hang on around the bootlaces is second to none.

11. Leicester Fainga’anuku – 8.5

The three certainties in life: death, taxes and Leicester Fainga’anuku running off the back of Crusaders’ lineout moves. The finishing prowess was on display as David Havili set him up in the corner. As impressive as his attacking threat is – 118 running metres off 17 carries – it was Fainga’anuku’s defence that stood out as the Crusaders looked to close the game out. He read plays well and put in some big hits that put an end to the Blues’ attacking threats and ultimately, their comeback hopes.

12. David Havili – 8

Havili’s playmaking skills more closely resemble that of Magic Johnson than any traditional second five, throwing one-handed pass fakes and delivering sleight-of-hand balls to his outside runners. He found ways to inject his defence into the match at key moments, stifling the Blues’ momentum and claiming a couple of steals for good measure. Havili’s work rate was key to the Crusaders’ success on defence, making extra efforts and chasing hard when the ball was kicked ahead.

13. Braydon Ennor – 7.5

Ennor’s influence on the match was often subtle but productive; making the half-break that led to Leicester Fainga’anuku’s try, stepping in at halfback when the No 9 was otherwise engaged and holding players up on defence. The game was still very much in the balance late in the piece and it was the likes of Braydon Ennor whose fitness showed up, putting in the extra efforts as others were catching their breath.

14. Dallas McLeod – 6.5

Charged with the tall order of marking the evasive Caleb Clark, McLoed stood up admirably, claiming six tackles on the night. His attacking game was limited but his few runs were productive, beating two tackles and running his way out of some dangerously isolated situations.

15. Will Jordan – 7

It was a shaky start to the match for Jordan, his initial few touches were indecisive and he was lucky not to get isolated. The confidence never wavered though and there were plenty of subtle touches amongst the rust. Jordan’s vision provided moments of what could have been magic, just lacking the familiar Jordan touch to finish the play.

 

Replacements:

 

16. Brodie McAlister – 6.5

17. Kershawl Sykes-Martin – 7

18. Oliver Jager – 6.5

On early for the injured Joe Moody and introduced himself to the match with a strong leg drive. Soon left the field with a blood bin but returned and contributed on both sides of the ball.

19. Zach Gallagher – 7

Gallagher came on and offered instant impact, stealing a lineout and making his presence felt with a physical clearance in the breakdown.

20. Sione Havili Talitui – 8

21. Noah Hotham – 8.5

The future of the Crusaders’ No 9 jersey is bright with this kid, his passing is crisp, his vision opens the defence up and his running game is a constant threat. Made some tough tackles also.

22. Fergus Burke – N/A

23. Jack Goodhue – 7.5

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Comments

1 Comment
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Andrew 405 days ago

Just wish Havili could deliver against the top test nations....so good at Superlevel and playing minnows like Australia

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