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Scott Barrett’s honest assessment of Crusaders’ third loss to start season

By Finn Morton
Willi Heinz of the Crusaders kicking the ball during the round three Super Rugby Pacific match between Fijian Drua and Crusaders at Churchill Park, on March 9, 2024, in Lautoka, Fiji. (Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images)

Crusaders captain Scott Barrett has blamed the defending champions’ third-straight loss to start the season on poor execution after they went down to the Fijian Drua 20-10 on Saturday.

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Wing Sevu Reece scored the opening try of the afternoon in the 18th minute to cap off a relatively strong opening quarter from the reigning Super Rugby Pacific champions.

But it was all one-way traffic from there as the Fijian Drua took control. The hosts scored 17 unanswered points as they held a one-score lead going into the final 30 minutes of play.

The Crusaders had a number of opportunities inside the Drua’s half, but time and time again, the men wearing black and red came up short as they failed to claw their way back.

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Fly-half Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, 20, iced the game with a late penalty goal in the 78th minute. The game was theirs as the Crusaders were left to rue what could’ve been.

“We just didn’t execute,” captain Scott Barrett said on the broadcast after the 10-point defeat.

“We had multiple opportunities down there, particularly around our lineout and we just weren’t sharp and clinical like we’d hoped.”

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The Crusaders are the first team to reach a 0-3 record this season, with the Western Force the only other side searching for their first win at the time of writing.

Without the likes of Richie Mo’unga and lock Sam Whitelock, the defending champions have struggled during their defeats to the Chiefs, Waratahs and now Drua during the opening three rounds.

Mitchell Drummond, Noah Hotham and Willi Heinz have all started at halfback across the three matches, and there has been some rotation at fly-half as well.

With new coach Rob Penney at the helm, the Crusaders seem to still be searching for their new identity and flow in the post-Scott Robertson era.

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“We were clear on our game plan. It was pretty simple and we just didn’t execute,” Barrett added.

“Greasy ball, little opportunities and you give the Fijian Drua a sniff and they’ll really punish you.”

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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