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Crusaders player ratings vs Fijian Drua | Super Rugby Pacific

By Ned Lester
Sevu Reece warms up for the Crusaders. Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images

Boiling hot conditions in Lautoka hosted round three’s Super Rugby Pacific matchup between the Crusaders and the Fijian Drua.

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The heat had a strong influence on the game with handling errors aplenty, mainly for the visiting Crusaders. The conditions disrupted opportunities for running rugby as well, the first half was a territory battle with the Crusaders coming out with a 12-5 lead thanks to their dominant rolling maul.

The Drua embraced the occasion in the second half and gave their fans plenty to cheer about, playing some superb rugby in broken play. The handling errors continued to mount up for the Crusaders and the Drua capitalised, also using the high kick to good effect as the Crusaders struggled to claim the ball staring into the afternoon sun.

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The game came down to the wire as the Crusaders scored in the 77th minute to level the scores at 22-22. A Crusaders infringement in extra time gifted the Drua a penalty in front of the sticks and debutant Kemu Valetini stepped up and produced a historic moment for the home side.

Ultimately the pressure of Fiji’s physicality had the Crusaders scrambling, the fans were roaring and the Drua’s discipline didn’t let the reigning champs off the hook.

Fiji claims the win with a final score of 25-24.

Here’s how the Crusaders rated:

1. George Bower – 8

The pace of the Fijian attack brought out the best in Bower, his agility and physicality shined on defence. Slipped in an early scrum but had the Crusaders marching forward throughout the first half, just struggling to control the movement of the scrum at times. A knock-on in the 33rd minute spoiled a scoring opportunity.

2. Quentin MacDonald – 7

Claimed the game’s opening two tries off the back of a dominant rolling maul. Contributed well to a strong scrum and lasted a good 15 minutes longer than his front-row partners in the heat which has to be commended.

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3. Tamaiti Williams  – 7

Contributed some strong carries and won the scrum battle throughout the first half. The match was a great example of how Williams has worked on his conditioning since entering the Super Rugby scene. His side would have benefitted from more carries by the big prop. Struggled with Fiji’s second unit and was replaced ten minutes into the second half.

4. Scott Barrett  – 6.5

Claimed the lineout ball well and had some nice carries but struggled to get his troops aligned and play the usual Crusaders brand of footy. Slipped into the flanker spot late. Labelled his milestone performance “bittersweet” in the post-match interview but was proud of his accomplishment and gracious towards the Fijian side and their fans.

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5. Sam Whitelock – 6.5

The 34-year-old channelled his inner Roger Tuivasa-Sheck with a lively sidestep that got him over the line in the 18th minute, unfortunately for Sammy, he wasn’t able to ground it cleanly. Penalised a couple of times in defensive lineouts. Whitelock’s presence as one of Super Rugby’s all-time most experienced players wasn’t enough to inspire composure from his side in the pressure cooker of Churchill Park.

6. Sione Havili Talitui – 8

Gave away a blatant penalty in the third minute and was very lucky that Fiji botched the kick from right out front. Tidied up his discipline after that and made an impressive number of tackles in the first half alone. Continued his stoic defensive work in the second 40, handling some exceptional ball runners.

7. Tom Christie – 5

Was employed as a carrier early. Was stoic in defence but the dynamic play of the Drua’s loose forwards was consistently gaining front foot ball, especially in the second 40.

8. Christian Lio-Willie – 6.5

Was one of few Crusaders to claim some post-contact meters when carrying but like the rest of the visitor’s forward pack, Lio-Willie struggled to impose himself on the match.

9. Willi Heinz – 5

Early kicking game was poor. Spent much of the game tidying up scrappy ball. Excellent job disrupting what would have been the Fijian’s second try. Produced better clearances in the second half.

10. Fergus Burke – 4

Struggled to influence the game and looked rushed in his distributions throughout. Nailed a clutch kick in the 78th minute to give his side the lead.

11. Macca Springer – 5

Only managed a couple of touches but had moments where he showed some good defensive work rate.

12. David Havili – N/A

Off early.

13. Braydon Ennor – 6.5

Ennor’s rugby IQ is better suited to more structured games but when he could make sense of the Drua’s attack, his defensive reads were on point. Proved his fitness in the heat but had limited impact on the match.

14. Sevu Reece – 7

Reece clearly loves this matchup and didn’t hesitate to challenge his opposite Eroni “the sledgehammer” Sau in contact. Managed a couple of decent touches early but didn’t see the ball again until the final 10 minutes – where he scored a great try to get the Crusaders back in the game.

15. Chay Fihaki – 5

Had some shaky touches in the first half but came out more composed in the second 40. Has a tendency to go charging into contact regardless of the support around him. Wasn’t able to deploy his monster boot in a game where it could have been a real asset.

 

Replacements:

16. Ioane Moananu – 6

Displayed great enthusiasm, carrying hard. Not immune to handling errors, dropping one as he was nailed by a Fijian player.

17. Kershawl Sykes-Martin – 5.5

Came on and quickly won a scrum penalty and had some go either way after that.

18. Seb Calder – 5

19. Zach Gallagher – 5

20. Corey Kellow – 6.5

Found himself as the last line of defence down the left wing and dropped the tackle on a rampaging Joseva Tamani. squared up the attack with a few runs, providing a rare glimpse at a stable attacking foundation for the Crusaders.

21. Noah Hotham – 7

Hotham continues to impress with his attacking instincts and skillset. Dropped the final kickoff, ultimately leading to the Drua’s match-winning kick.

22. Taha Kemara – 5

23. Dallas McLeod – 7.5

McLeod came on early for an injured David Havili and injected himself into the match quickly. Attacked the Fijian line with perhaps the most enthusiasm of any Crusaders player and proved his physicality was up to the test.

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