'If we're talking about it on Monday then we've got a bit of an issue': The Crusaders' biggest weakness exposed?
Immediately after the match, Highlanders coach Tony Brown lamented the state of the game, suggesting that with the number of penalties that the Crusaders were conceding, there was no way that they should have been able to win the clash.
“If you look at tonight’s game, that’s what’s sad about rugby at the moment,” Brown said.
“We had 60 per cent possession, 60 per cent territory. We only concede eight penalties, they’re conceding 19 penalties and numerous penalty advantages against them and then two yellow cards and they still win. That’s the sad thing about footy.”
Brown also highlighted it was an ongoing trend for the Crusaders, with the Super Rugby Aotearoa champions also picking up three more yellow cards in their most recent pre-season match.
“For us, we don’t want to be that team [where] that becomes our trademark around being penalised and giving teams easy outs and refs looking at us even more because these derbies can be so hard and especially when you’re giving away penalties,” he said.
“We’ve just got to be better at it. We just can’t afford to get ourselves in these positions again because these derby games, we’re going to start losing games if we keep putting ourselves under pressure like that.”
Speaking to media ahead of the Crusaders’ clash with the Hurricanes this coming Sunday, assistant coach Jason Ryan admitted that the side’s ill-discipline had been a target for improvement this week – especially improving the team’s tendency to creep up on defence.
“If we’re talking about it on Monday then we’ve got a bit of an issue,” Ryan said of the many offside penalties that had been dished out to the Crusaders over the weekend.
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“We need to be harder on the boys at training to set them up to succeed. It’ll help on the training field putting those things into place because the ARs [assistant referees] are just searching for it, the offside lines, and that’s great, as long as it’s consistent, which, to be fair, it has.
“A lot of people blame the referees but in all honesty they’re just doing what they’re told to do and they’ve been real clear on it.”
The Crusaders were penalised 15 times in their opening win of the season – almost twice as many times as the Highlanders.
While the champions will go into their first home game of the year as favourites, ill-discipline could certainly pave the way for a second successive defeat to the Hurricanes in Christchurch.
Sunday’s match, kicking off at 4:35pm NZT, is available to watch for RugbyPass subscribers who hold a Super Rugby Aotearoa season pass.
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