A fixture all rugby fans, not just those in New Zealand keep an eye out for is whenever the Crusaders and Chiefs do battle as their recent contests have delivered some exceptional rugby. Who could forget that match in Suva in 2019 when the Chiefs found a gear the Crusaders could not match and took the game 40-27? And this was no fluke outcome when earlier this year the Chiefs put the Crusaders to the sword 25-15 in Hamilton.

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Travelling to Christchurch and coming away with the chocolates is easier said than done, though.  In round two, the hosts were clinical yet ill-disciplined at times against the Hurricanes and will be seeking to rectify accordingly. The Chiefs inexperience up front and poor option taking exposed them against the Blues last week but with the return of new All Blacks skipper Sam Cane to the back row to partner Lachlan Boshier will make them formidable at the breakdown if they adjust to the recent rule changes.

The champions against their recent nemesis didn’t fail to deliver as a spectacle despite the rain affected conditions. It was a gripping affair with the Crusaders edging out the strong finishing Chiefs 18-13.

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Blues v Highlanders Press Conference

Let’s see how the Crusaders rated:

1. Joe Moody – 7

Good day out for Joe, especially getting one over fellow All Black Nepo Laulala in the first scrum to give his side a penalty that produced the first points of the match.

2. Codie Taylor (c) – 8

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A true captain’s performance. His lineout in trying conditions was near faultless. Coupled with an energetic effort in defence and attack ensured his side maintained the standard required. World class.

3. Michael Alaalatoa – 7.5

Really impressed by his defensive efforts. Came off the line consistently putting the Chiefs runners under pressure. Lost his feet and a few scrums but the conditions no doubt contributed to that. Good day out for the Australian-born Samoan international.

4. Sam Whitelock – 7.5

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Played like the leader he is. Stole a lineout, worked hard in the tight in both attack and possession. The veteran looked to be enjoying himself in the thick of it.

5. Mitchell Dunshea – 7

Did his bit in tough conditions. Wanted to be involved, wanted to assert himself on the opposition and did so.

6. Cullen Grace – 8

The Machine! What a superb performance by him. Not only made a mountain of tackles, he was largely dominant in those collisions. Stole a lineout when the Chiefs were on attack and despite the odd missed tackle and infringement Cullen just didn’t like he was going to stop. Best loose forward on the park.

7. Billy Harmon – 7.5

Not the game conditions for Harmon to excel but put in a big shift in Defence which what was absolutely required. Exhausted himself for the cause without fuss.

8. Whetu Douglas – 7

Solid defensive effort and didn’t have much opportunity in attack. Was in the thick of it.

9. Bryn Hall – 7

A really intelligent performance. His option taking by putting kicks in behind the short side defence were on the money. His passing game was for the most very good, yet perhaps due to the conditions the off ‘Harbour Bridge’ pass appeared putting the receiver under undue pressure outside of that a good day at the office.

10. Richie Mo’unga – 7

Not a definitive Mo’unga performance but he didn’t let his side down either. Took the right option most of the time, but for an All Black fly half I would have liked to see him impose himself further with his running game as he evidently has the class to do so. The wet he got it right yet there were some tired forwards and gaps to exploit than weren’t so.

11. George Bridge – 7.5

Just an intelligent, professional performance. Rarely did his input result in putting his side under pressure. He is the personification of the low mistake percentage player and that is what was exactly required in today’s conditions.

12. Jack Goodhue – 8

Superb in defence. His line-speed, work over the ball and setting up around the ruck to plugs the gaps on defence were his strengths today. The Chiefs looked to attack those edges early in the second half but Goodhue was there to assist in nullifying much of it. His second efforts were evidence of his commitment and class.

13. Braydon Ennor – 6.5

Credible performance but not a stand out one. Worked away in defence with not many opportunities in attack.

14. Sevu Reece – 7

Had some loose carries that put his side under pressure but to his credit was always looking for a way to impose himself on the match and did so when chasing a cross field kick to regather and put Will Jordan away for a wonderful try.

15. Will Jordan – 8

In the wet conditions you can assess a full backs value as to what they defuse as opposed to what the create in attack. Jordan did all that and more. Despite the odd handling error and penalty Jordan was superb for the Crusaders scoring two wonderful tries through support and being in the moment.

Reserves

16. Brodie McAlister – NA

17. Isi Tu’ungafasi – 7

Got stuck in in defence and sought to impose himself.

18. George Bower – 6.5

Brought some energy when he came on as required.

19. Luke Romano – 7.5

Worked himself hard when he came on and whilst there were the odd error and infringement, the veteran put on a shot to dislodge an Chiefs player late in the match to relieve the offensive pressure. Did what a good bench forward should.

20. Ethan Blackadder – 7

Worked hard and launched himself off the defensive line. Intelligent player who was using a few of the dark arts to keep Chiefs players either out the attack or out of the defensive line.

21. Mitchell Drummond – 6.5

A fair job coming off the bench but not in Hall’s class today.

22. David Havili – 7

Solid performance with some classy touches in possession and with the boot.

23. Leicester Faingaanuku – 6

Didn’t see much of him but didn’t cause his side any significant concerns.

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