The Crusaders entered Friday night’s clash with the Highlanders in Christchurch undefeated since the start of the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition and many expected the home side to roll the visiting southerners – but the reality was the complete opposite.
The Highlanders raced out to a 16-0 lead and despite the Crusaders starting to put more passes together as the game wore on, they never really came within touching distance of their opposition. It was certainly the least succinct performance from the red and blacks in 2021, with the Highlanders ultimately prevailing 33-12.
How did the Crusaders players rate in the defeat?
1. Joe Moody – 6/10
Things didn’t go his way as expected at the set piece and found it hard going at times, subsequently the Crusaders didn’t get their consistency of platform. As usual, worked tirelessly in the contact zones.
2. Codie Taylor – 7
Was one of the better Crusaders out there with some telling runs and was faultless in defence. Nabbed a try just before half time to give his side some momentum going into the sheds.
3. Michael Alaalatoa – 6
Similar to Joe Moody, had a tough time of it at the scrum at times and that frustrated the Crusaders. Worked hard off the ball but like many of the Crusaders, came second in the collision.
4. Scott Barrett – 7
He and Sam Whitelock were the shining lights for the Crusaders tonight. He was physical on both sides of the ball and was trying to lift his side yet it didn’t happen. As a skipper needed to abate the penalties early in the game as they were robbing his side of momentum and pressure.
5. Samuel Whitelock – 7
Was enormous in a losing side but it just didn’t click for the Crusaders tonight despite a staunch effort from the former skipper.
6. Ethan Blackadder – 5.5
The effort was there but the execution was not at times be it a late pass or a tad high at the clean out it. Didn’t dent his All Black ambitions significantly but will need to respond next week and tighten up in defence.
7. Sione Havili Talitui – 5.5
Busy but outplayed by former Crusader Billy Harmon tonight.
Tony Brown says he is "disappointed" to have dropped star playmaker Josh Ioane and five other players from this week's side to face the Crusaders due to a protocol breach. #SuperRugbyAotearoa #CRUvHIG https://t.co/jgc6JtmDaU
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 31, 2021
8. Cullen Grace – 5.5
Was part of a back row that was outplayed tonight despite working hard off the ball as usual.
9. Mitchell Drummond – 5
Started poorly with a substandard box kick and he never appeared to find his rhythm probably due to the fact his side were getting dusted at the breakdown. He has had better games
10. Richie Mo’unga – 5.5
Moments of Mo’unga magic wrapped inside a forgettable performance really. In matches when things are not going your way, decision-making becomes paramount and he put his side under some unexpected pressure tonight due to some of his options. This in turn put pressure on himself and his execution faltered.
11. Leicester Fainga’anuku – 5
Had his moments but was caught out a bit in defence tonight.
12. David Havili – 7
Was holding that backline together for his side and was a handful at times for the Highlanders and thoroughly deserved his second-half try. Didn’t let the team down in defence.
13. Jack Goodhue – 5.5
Uncharacteristically absent tonight. For a player of his ilk he should have had a greater influence on proceedings and at times wondered where he was.
14. George Bridge – 5.5
Not the return he was looking for. Despite putting himself in some promising attacking positions he was off the pace slightly and failed to execute by overrunning the pass. Showed glimpses of his ability and will be better for the run.
15. Will Jordan – 5
Had some nice touches but the pace of the Highlanders defence line caught him off guard at times as he got caught looking at what was on for himself as opposed to other attacking options. Probably cost his side a try in the second half by failing to secure possession whilst under pressure and that is no befitting of his intelligence and talent. Had better games.
Ardie Savea is not happy with how the standing down of six Highlanders players has been covered by New Zealand's media – and he's not afraid to show it.https://t.co/2Aa1hbKaTU
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 2, 2021
16. Brodie McAlister – 5.5
On in the 66th and had a crack but didn’t quite have the impact sought.
17. George Bower – 5
On in the 50th Wasn’t on his best tonight either be it in the set piece or general play.
18. Oliver Jager – 5
On in the 50th and did Ok, but nothing to write home about.
19. Mitchell Dunshea – 6
On in the 55th and really tried to impose himself on proceedings.
20. Whetukamokamo Douglas – N/A
On in the 77th.
21. Bryn Hall – 6
On in the 46th and his service was better than that of Drummonds tonight. The Crusaders appeared more composed when he was on.
22. Fergus Burke – N/A
On in the 77th.
23. Sevu Reece – 5
On in the 50th and didn’t do enough. His team needed impact but it didn’t come from Sevu tonight.
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