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'The best I've seen him play': How McKenzie stole the show vs Crusaders

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Peter Meecham/Getty Images)

All Blacks greats Israel Dagg and Justin Marshall have praised Chiefs playmaker Damian McKenzie for his scintillating performance in the No. 10 jersey on Friday.

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If the history books are anything to go by, then one truth remains consistent in Super Rugby year-to-year.

Without a doubt, the hardest place to win is Christchurch; the home of the champion Crusaders.

After six Super Rugby titles in as many years, Scott Robertson and co entered the new campaign as the heavy favourites. The Crusaders seem to thrive on the pressure and expectation that continues to weigh on their shoulders – it doesn’t bother them, usually.

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But led by star flyhalf Damian McKenzie, who has returned to New Zealand following a stint in Japan, the Chiefs shocked the world as they ran rampant against the Crusaders.

McKenzie was at his best at Orangetheory Stadium in round one as the visitors scored 24 unanswered points, and registered an incredible 31-10 win to open their account for the season.

Rugby World Cup winning All Black Israel Dagg believes McKenzie “absolutely nailed” his role on Friday night.

“All the eyes were on Damian McKenzie and seeing how he could take to that 10 position and I thought he absolutely nailed it and potentially outplayed Richie Mo’unga,” Dagg told SENZ Breakfast.

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“I thought Damian showed great signs going forward to the future that it more than capable of taking that 10 jersey.”

McKenzie, who has played 40 Test matches for the All Blacks, took his game to an all-new level on Friday night.

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From the opening couple of minutes where he showcased his kicking game, the 27-year-old had fans and commentators in awe.

The utility back finished with an 11-point haul – which was of course one point more than the Crusaders’ total.

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Former All Blacks scrumhalf Justin Marshall also sang McKenzie’s praises on SENZ, saying it wa s probably “the best I’ve seen him play in that jersey.”

“I think (that was) probably the best I’ve seen him play in that jersey in a big match,” Marshall told SENZ’s The Rugby Run.

“Obviously he can open games up regardless when he’s in that jersey but when it comes to big crunch matches against very good opposition and good defensive sides, that’s when your true metal is tested.

“His kicking strategy was really good; when he needed to sit back a bit and find space he did, when he needed to kick long he kicked long well, when he needed it to be competitive in the air he did that as well.

“He was getting outside the fourth or fifth defender of the Crusaders quite comfortably and opening up the field.

“That’s what he’s so very good at, so the Chiefs’ pattern very much revolved around that.”

After opening their regular season with a stunning victory, the Chiefs will look to keep the good times rolling as they prepare to face Moana Pasifika in Melbourne.

Super Rugby heads across the ditch for Super Round, with all 12 teams set to take the field across three days.

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3 Comments
G
Graeme 475 days ago

Everything good about the Chiefs attack comes through D-Mac.

K
Keith 475 days ago

Mackenzie obviously has ambition to inherit the number 10 All Blacks jersey but the real forthcoming loss is at scrum half when Smith goes without a clear replacement, I wonder how he would do in that position?

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