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Crusaders player ratings vs Highlanders | Super Rugby Pacific

By Tom Vinicombe
Fergus Burke. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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The Crusaders have remained unbeaten two rounds into the Super Rugby Pacific season, scoring a 34-19 win over the Highlanders in Dunedin.

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The Highlanders kept the Crusaders in check throughout the first three-quarters of the match, with the Crusaders often having to sustain long periods on defence. Late in the game, however, the Crusaders classy backs became more prominent on attack and the home side couldn’t repel every dazzling line break from their opposites.

It was a solid game from the Crusaders all-around, but there were a few players who stood out in all facets of the match.

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Pablo Matera discusses signing for the Crusaders.
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Pablo Matera discusses signing for the Crusaders.

1. Joe Moody – 5
Oddly, looked better as a ball carrier than a distributor. Not especially dynamic all-around – the Crusaders need more from the big All Black. Off in 51st minute.

2. Brodie McAlister – 6
Reliable at lineout time, conceding just two throws. Nice dominant tackle on Mitch Hint late in the first half to snuff out a Highlanders attack. Showed good hands on attack throughout the match but especially in the second stanza, combining with the rest of his forwards well. Off in 77th minute.

3. Oli Jager – 7
An ever-willing ball carrier. Made a couple of big hits on defence in the first half. Perhaps the best tighthead prop in New Zealand right now? Off in 58th minute.

4. Scott Barrett – 7
Handy on defence, regularly managing to hold the ball carrier up and slow down the attack. Good breakdown steal early in the second half. Discipline was again an issue for the Crusaders when they were under the pump and the captain needs to take ownership of that. Made 15 tackles throughout the game.

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5. Sam Whitelock – 6
Got busier and busier as the game wore on, becoming more prominent with the ball in hand. Mostly reliable in the lineouts, though conceded one throw to Bryn Evans when hot on attack.

6. Pablo Matera – 4
Wasn’t sighted until the 20th minute of the match. A very quiet game for the Argentinian import. Off in 58th minute.

7. Tom Christie – 6
Per usual, a machine on defence, making over 20 tackles for the second week in a row (hitting 25 tonight). Strong early, keeping the Highlanders honest at the breakdown, but copped one penalty at the 10-minute mark. Not quite as impactful on the offence as he is on defence.

 

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8. Cullen Grace – 6
Made a poor start to the match, slipping up on Josh Timu to concede a penalty less than a minute into the game and then was pinged at the breakdown the next time he got involved. Made some sold carries but also found himself pushed back behind the advantage line at an equal rate. Clocked up the most metres of any Crusaders forward. Off in 68th minute.

9. Mitchell Drummond – 5
Busy without setting the world alight. Ran into Will Jordan when the fullback was in a good position to take Aaron Smith’s box kick into the 22, handing the ball (and an advantage) back to the Highlanders. Looks to be slipping behind fellow halfback Bryn Hall. Off in 49th minute.

10. Fergus Burke – 5
Like his halves partner, kept the Crusaders ticking without doing too much on his own. Relatively quiet in the first half but started to attack the line more in the second half. Crucially, won the breakdown penalty inside the Highlanders 22 from which Sevu Reece scored his opening try. Lost one high ball under pressure but made a difficult covering tackle on Fetuli Paea moments later to quell the Highlanders attack. Off in 63rd minute.

11. Leicester Fainga’anuku – 6
Penalised at the breakdown early. Had a quiet first half, bar one beautiful offload to send Whitelock away on a run with seconds left on the clock. Two carries late in the third quarter resulted in turnovers. As in the first half, threw an exceptional offload to George Bridge in the second, who gave the ball back in-field for Will Jordan to work his magic.

12. David Havili – 6
Used his kicking boots to good effect, pinning the Highlanders inside the 22 with his short-ball game. Less prominent than his teammates, more used as a distributor than a running threat. Threw some nice short passes to generate some momentum.

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13. Braydon Ennor – 6
One of many Crusaders backs caught out by the opening Highlanders try. Zipped into the attacking line when needed but his hands let him down on more than one occasion.

14. Sevu Reece – 7
Always dangerous on offence, showing off his trademark dancing feet and keeping the Highlanders honest. Made a poor decision to kick when on attack inside the Highlanders 22 with men outside him but the Crusaders chase won the penalty at the subsequent breakdown and Reece was on hand to take the quick tap and score. His next kick, however, was a pearler, after he picked up a kick from Will Jordan and quickly put the ball to boot. Undid a bit of a his good work when he went solo into the Highlanders defence early in the second half and lost possession. Off in 63rd minute.

15. Will Jordan – 8
Once again one of the Crusaders’ best. Nice high-ball take to start off his match but lost possession at the breakdown. Made one lovely kick-pass to Reece when on attack. Used his speed to get around Connor Garden-Bachop and deliver the ball to Reece for the Crusaders’ second try and then scored one of his own in the second half, showing speed and strength to eventually get the ball over the line after receiving it on the Highlanders 10-metre line. Should have had a 50/22 moments later off a great kick but the ref thought otherwise.

Replacements:

16. Shilo Klein – N/A
On in 77th minute.

17. George Bower – 6
On in 51st minute. Instantly won a scrum penalty.

18. Tamaiti Williams – 6
On in 58th minute. Touched down in the final five minutes with a good short-distance carry for the Crusaders’ bonus point try.

19. Quinten Strange – 4
On in 58th minute. Didn’t have much to show for his time on the field, bar taking one kick to the back of the head.

20. Corey Kellow – N/A
On in 68th minute.

21. Bryn Hall – 7
On in 49th minute. Was more dynamic than the starting No 9. Won a breakdown penalty and put in some good effort on defence.

22. Simon Hickey – 6
On in 63rd minute. Demolished in his first attempted tackle of the game but showed nice hands to get the Crusaders attacking.

23. George Bridge – 7
On in 63rd minute. Strong cameo, particularly in the final 10 minutes, making some solid runs.

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