The latest round of action in Super Rugby Aotearoa opened with a surprise result in Christchurch, the Hurricanes defeating the Crusaders 34-32 to blow the title race wide open. Hurricanes travelled buoyed by their 29-27 victory over the Blues in round six, yet they faced a Crusaders side well-rested after having the bye last weekend following their 26-15 win over the Blues in round five.

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Both sides had much to play for. A bonus point victory would all but seal another title for the Crusaders, yet a win for the Hurricanes would edge them closer to the front runners. Crusaders coach Scott Robertson made several changes to his matchday 23. With full-back David Havili set to miss the balance of the tournament through a persistent thumb injury, rising star Will Jordan was given another opportunity to press for All Black selection. 

Regular centre Braydon Ennor was rested due to a foot injury sustained against the Blues, allowing Fetuli Paea to start. True to form, the match produced provincial rugby of the highest calibre with the visitors eventually outmuscling the hosts in a thriller. Here is how RugbyPass rated the Crusaders players: 

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1. Joe Moody – 7/10

Professional performance by ‘Big Joe’. Dominated in the set-piece and despite starting a wee bit quiet, brought energy and did his best to get his side a result that wasn’t to be.

2. Codie Taylor – 6.5

Made too many uncharacteristic errors. Lineout was off, thwarting his team’s opportunity to launch an attack. Was tireless in defence, notching up 13 tackles. A fair effort, but not his best night. 

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3. Michael Alaalatoa 6.5

Solid in the set-piece but didn’t impose himself as he had previously in attack in previous rounds. Didn’t shirk it in defence. 

4. Samuel Whitelock – 7

Another influential performance. Tried to the final whistle to turn the tide with all his experience, guile and skill. An absolute competitive performance. Exhausted himself for the cause.

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5. Mitchell Dunshea – 6.5

A fair shift yet somewhat quite in defence despite securing a turnover. Needed to muscle up to the Hurricanes more. 

6. Tom Sanders – 6

Made a number of early errors, be it pushing a pass or giving away a penalty. It was a mentally vacant effort by ‘The Colonel’ at times, but to his credit he never quit and was unlucky not to be the recipient of a short ball off Richie Mo’unga that would have shredded the Hurricanes defence, yet the pass didn’t come. 

7. Tom Christie – 6.5

Had a fair crack as always but didn’t influence the breakdown as much as he team perhaps would have liked. 

8. Whetukamokamo Douglas – 6

A little quiet, he was outmuscled in the in the tight. Has had better performances. 

9. Bryn Hall – 5.5

Missed a coupled of tackles and didn’t appear to disturb TJ Perenara. Replaced in the 48th minute.

10. Richie Mo’unga – 8

Another quality performance, scoring 17 points for his side. Had the opportunity to square it up at 34-34 but his conversion drifted left. While he may attract some criticism for that, without his efforts the Crusaders would have been embarrassed. 

11. George Bridge – 7

Didn’t do much wrong but the Hurricanes scored at least three tries down his side. Despite only missing one tackle, his defensive combination with Paea didn’t appear to gel. 

12. Jack Goodhue – 5

Every player has a match they would like to forget and this would be his one. Four missed tackles coupled with discipline issues wasn’t the performance his side needed. Was outplayed and that is not something you see often. 

13. Fetuli Paea – 6

A fair effort. Had some quality touches, yet was still a bit quiet. Didn’t appear to gel with Bridge in defence. 

14. Sevu Reece – 7.5

Influential performance. Scored a wonderful try to give his side an opportunity to take the match to a golden point scenario. It was a deserved try as he was one the best Crusaders.

15. Will Jordan – 6

It didn’t quite happen for him. Despite having some quality involvements, he committed a cardinal sin by letting a Jordie Barrett kick deep into the Crusaders half bounce. Not a performance that enhanced his All Black claims. 

Replacements: 

16. Andrew Makalio – N/A

On in the 75th minute.

17. George Bower – 5

On in the 63rd minute. Did his job. 

18. Oliver Jager – 5

Another on in the 63rd minute. Also did his job. 

19. Quinten Strange – 6.5

On in the 57th minute. Impressed with his intent and physicality and scored a much-needed try for his side working off second phase from an attacking scrum, yet was sin-binned for foul play at the death. Despite that there was a bit to like about his efforts. 

20. Sione Havili – 5

On in the 60th minute but didn’t bring the impact needed. 

21. Mitchell Drummond – 6

On in the 48th minute. Had a crack but on occasion was prone to the odd poor pass. 

22. Brett Cameron – N/A

23. Leicester Fainga’anuku – 5

On in the 60th minute. Didn’t bring much influence for a player of his talent. 

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