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Crusaders player ratings vs Highlanders - 2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa

By Nick Turnbull

Trending on RugbyPass

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Crusaders player ratings: Super Rugby returned to New Zealand this evening when the reigning champions, the Crusaders took on their South Island neighbors – the Highlanders – at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

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Scott ‘Razor’ Robertson’s Crusaders went into the clash as firm, but not stand out favorites as they were facing a Tony Brown-coached outfit that featured a number of All Blacks including the fearsome-when-fit backrower Liam Squire.

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Seldom does this fixture fail to entertain and tonight’s match was no different.

The visitors rocketed out to a 14-0 lead after converted tries to both Codie Taylor and Bryn Hall, yet the Highlanders found some rhythm and possession and exploited a 14-man Crusaders after Crusaders flanker Ethan Blackadder was sent to the bin for repeat team infringements and scored their first try through Shannon Frizzell exploiting the fringe. Their second, a wonderfully executed pocket play seeing the exciting winger Connor Garden-Bachop steaming down the flank to open his account for 2021.

The teams went into the sheds with the Crusaders enjoying a 14-10 lead, but not the momentum. However, the break allowed the Cantabrians to rejuvenate and re-align and they eventually ran out victors 26-13 with the Highlander’s desperately unlucky at times not to capitalize on multiple phase pressure.

This is how RugbyPass rated the winners;

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1. JOE MOODY 7/10
Solid start by ‘Big Joe’, who was solid in the set piece and in defence and around the breakdown. However, those who enjoy the sight of front rowers running at full tilt in open space would have been impressed with his cameo in the first half showing a turn of speed over a few meters but was cut down and a ‘Meat Pie’ wasn’t to be. For this week…..

2. CODIE TAYLOR – 8
Teams have ‘Brick’ players and teams of ‘Mortar’ players but the veteran hooker is one of those rare players who is both. On display again today was how he does the little things well in the set piece and tight spaces and places, but he scored a wonderful try by running a tight inverted angle off a Sam Whitelock pass illustrating his prowess in line running. Big game.

3. MICHAEL ALAALATOA 7.5
The Australian-born Samoan international put in the reliable, dependable performance we have become accustomed to. There would be plenty of ex-props raising a glass to ‘Bike Mike’ for a tradesman-like performance tonight.

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4. SCOTT BARRETT (C) – 7
A monster in defence and worked hard in tight and had moments that confirms his class as an international forward, yet his incessant bleating and niggle tactics off the ball are unedifying for a player of his experience and for the office that he holds. The skipper shouldn’t be leading the penalty count!

5. SAMUEL WHITELOCK – 8
Just another Sam Whitelock performance showing the younger players the way both sides of the ball. Made a telling, try-saving tackle with teammate Ethan Blackadder with 15 minutes to go and was instrumental in sealing the win after a tense 70 odd minutes. Ageless.

6. ETHAN BLACKADDER – 8
He was my Crusader forward of the match despite copping a yellow card for repeat team infringements. He exhausted himself on both sides of the ball and appears to have added a wee bit bulk in the off-season and that is shown in the contact as more often than not he is winning the collision through size and technique. Great start!

7. TOM CHRISTIE – 7
‘Mr Everywhere’ looked a little shaky early on after being bumped off after a couple of attempted front on tackles but he worked through the early set backs and led the Crusaders tackle count. Probably not he greatest game with the ball-in-hand but that wasn’t required tonight. Solid.

8. CULLEN GRACE – 7
Really worked well with his fellow back row and inside backs. I am not convinced he is an 8-man but the balance he provides suited the Crusaders tonight. Big night in defence, quality shift.

9. BRYN HALL – 7
Scored a lovely try by supporting on the inside channel as any good scrum half should. Kicking game was solid but uncharacteristically some of his passes didn’t hit the target which hampered the Crusaders attack at times.

10. RICHIE MO’UNGA – 8
He controlled the rhythm of the game exceptionally well. He knew when to run, when to kick and when to pass. However, the genius of Mo’unga is how quickly he can give his side momentum post a mistake. Made a few errors tonight, but he who without error can cast the first stone.

11. LEICESTER FAINGA’ANUKU – 7.5
Was enjoyable to watch as he did everything you would want a winger to do, plus more. He was hungry for work and at times was almost playing like a fourth back rower.

12. DALLAS MCLEOD – 7
I really enjoyed watching the youngster play his rugby tonight. He can run and stay big through the contact, but also has a nice pair of hands and appears to have some presence about him. Watching the game alone I said to myself, this kid reminds me a bit of former Springbok Skipper Jean de Villiers. One to watch.

13. JACK GOODHUE – 7
Didn’t kill it in attack but was strong on defence despite missing three. The thirteen he made were invaluable against a Highlanders side that had threats out wide. Solid.

14. SEVU REEECE – 8
Superb Sevu! His inside kick to set up a Bryn Hall try was not something I thought he had in his repertoire. Was a handful all night and tough in defence evidenced by his front on shot on Liam Squire. That’s team identity on display right there.

15. CHAY FIHAKI* – 6.5
Didn’t do enough but was ok on debut. I think the Crusaders should have started Josh McKay in the absence of Will Jordan.

16. BRODIE MCALLISTER – 7
Came on in the 68th minute and snagged a try and was tough up front in the set piece.

17. GEORGE BOWER – 7
Come on in the 57th and absolutely dominated his opponent in the set piece. Earned his pay tonight, brought his team home well.

18. FLETCHER NEWELL* – 6
On in the 69th. Has big raps and I can see why as he was keen to get amongst it and didn’t look out of place.

19. QUINTEN STRANGE – 6
On in the 64th and did what he needed to do.

20. SIONE HAVILI TALITUI – 6
On in 56th and was solid without being spectacular. Played through some tense minutes and contributed to the cause.

21. MITCHELL DRUMMOND 7
On in the 45th and he appeared to have a better passing game than Bryn Hall than facilitated the attacking platform well.

22. FERGUS BURKE N/A – on in the 74th – Didn’t see enough.

23. JOSH MCKAY – 7
On in the 54th and was dangerous as we have come to expect. He makes his own luck by never giving up the effort until the whistle is blown.

*denotes Crusaders debut

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Crusaders player ratings vs Highlanders - 2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa

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