Round 2 of Super Rugby Aotearoa continued this afternoon at Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch when the Crusaders welcomed their North Island neighbours the Hurricanes to town.
Whilst the bookmakers were clearly favouring the hosts, the Hurricanes have proved they can win in Christchurch, securing a memorable 34-32 win in this fixture last year – which added spice to today’s fixture.
It took the hosts time to find their rhythm due to both a succession of unforced errors coupled with some ardent pressure from the visitors who, though first five Jackson Garden-Bachop came desperately close to scoring against the run of play, only to be thwarted by some identity revealing cover defence by the Crusaders wingers Sevu Reece and Leicester Fainga’anuku.
The home side abated the Hurricanes attack with some stern defence of their own and some exhilarating counter-attack denying the Hurricanes any chance to develop either defensive or attacking momentum, which helped them to go to the sheds at half time with a 26-6 lead.
The second half was no less entertaining with both sides producing some physical, skilful play however the Crusaders, despite clocking up more penalties than wanted, managed to close it out 33-16 against a spirited Hurricanes side.
How did the winning Crusaders players rate in the fixture?
1. Joe Moody – 7/10
Industrious today. Whilst his execution may not have always been accurate, that is no reflection on the effort exerted. Had has battles up front but found a way to produce a positive outcome in the set-piece.
2. Codie Taylor – 8
Scored two tries, had a hand in a third. As always, makes his own luck and was there to capitalise on others’ mistakes. That was the cream on top of what was yet another intelligent, skilful and relentless performance by the All Blacks hooker.
3. Michael Alaalatoa – 7.5
Got pinged for a few infringements around the breakdown but, outside of that, ‘Big Mike’ was very, very solid today. His set-piece held up as expected, setting the platform for the Crusaders, yet his ability to just do the graft in tight was his highlight today.
4. Scott Barrett – 7.5
Much improved discipline today. He was desperate in defensive aspects and cashed in with a nice try down the right flank to finish off a wonderfully executed team try. These are the types of performances that are required from the skipper.
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5. Sam Whitelock – 8.5
A consummate Sam Whitelock performance. He dropped off a tackle but outside of that was, as always, in the thick of it on both sides of the ball. His flick pass in the second half to maintain counter-attack momentum may earn him a Lakers contract yet. Brilliant, brilliant forward.
6. Ethan Blackadder – 7.5
Picked up from where he left off from last week – work, work and more bloody hard work is the best way to describe him today. Left the field with a head-knock after halting an Ardea Savea charge for the line. Team-first performance.
7. Tom Christie – 7
‘Mr Everywhere’, topping the Crusaders tackle count at 15, only dropping off two, but those two were head-on efforts. This bloke is quality but the head-on tackling may be an issue he needs to master as that was his defensive issue last week. Still a very respectable day out.
8. Cullen Grace – 7
Akin to his backrow counterparts, he just worked hard in the unfashionable areas. A more ‘mortar’ than ‘brick’ performance today – but that is what was needed.
9. Mitchell Drummond – 7
Wonderful game by him today, more so how well he controlled the centre of the park, directing play ensuring his forwards knew where and when to be. This, coupled with an ever-reliable passing game gave his side consistent momentum.
10. Richie Mo’unga – 7.5
Appeared hampered a touch by an injured left leg and made a few uncharacteristic mistakes in the early stages of the game, yet as all quality players do, he found a way when backing up to score a wonderful counter-attack try. Went on to influence the game and steer his side home.
11. Leicester Fainga’anuku – 8
Outstanding. Rampaging at times with the ball in hand dragging defence along with him he must have come close to topping the Crusaders post-contact meters. This coupled with his defence, particularly his effort with Sevu Reece to deny Jackson Garden-Bachop a certain 5 pointer, was special.
12. Dallas McLeod – 7.5
If he keeps this up, he’ll been an All Black by the end of the season. Like I said last week, keep an eye of him. His passing impressed today as with his positional play and go forward.
Jona Nareki proved on Friday night that one man can make all the difference.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 7, 2021
13. Jack Goodhue – 7
Solid today without being spectacular. Did the right thing by looking for a second touch but threw an awful pass that was intercepted and nearly lead to a Hurricanes try. Dropped off a few tackles but hung in and contributed.
14. Sevu Reece – 7.5
Has found a bit of a kicking game, hasn’t he? But, as always, is threatening every time he touches the ball and with his wing partner Leicester Fainga’anuku, prevented a certain Hurricanes try. Very good game today.
15. David Havili – 6.5
Was by no means poor, but has such better rugby in him. He was OK today, missed a tackle and kept busy but Will Jordan may have that 15 on his back next week.
16. Brodie McAlister – 6
Did his job, but the lineout was under somewhat more pressure when he came on. That aside he is not outclassed at this level.
17. George Bower – 6
Strong in the set-piece as expected. Guilty of an infringement but overall contributed to the win.
18. Fletcher Newell – 6
Lots to like about him and looks ready-made for the next generation of Crusader rugby. Will learn so much from the limited minutes he gets.
19. Quinten Strange – 6.5
Showing some ‘in-the-moment intelligence’ when punching through a blindside gap instead of passing and tipped it off with a very astute kick putting his side well onto the attack.
20. Sione Havili Talitui – 6
So strong in the tackle, slowing down the Hurricanes ball. Looks best suited to the finishing role considering the balance of the back row overall.
21. Bryn Hall – 6
Did his job but would have one eye on Mitch Drummond’s performance.
22. Fergus Burke – 6
Like Newell, he will learn so much from the limited minutes he gets but looks like he will be one for the future.
23. Will Jordan – 6.5
Not everything came off for him today, but it was great to see him back on the park. Starter at 15 next week?
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