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The selection that 'made a significant difference' for Crusaders in win

By Ned Lester
Noah Hotham of the Crusaders. Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

Life in Crusaders country got a little easier over the weekend thanks to the team’s first win of the season coming against the Chiefs in Christchurch.

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The defending champions were already nursing a host of injuries for the game, only to have their captain for the contest, halfback Mitch Drummond, ruled out just before kickoff.

In his place stepped 20-year-old Noah Hotham, a promising young talent who had seen limited minutes in 2024 as the club looked to inject as much experience as they could into the backline around their young playmakers.

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Coach Rob Penney may well be reconsidering that stance though after Hotham produced an electric performance, heavily influential in the positive result.

“I think they had a couple of things go their way even before the game,” former All Black Jeff Wilson told The Breakdown. “They had to play a young halfback in Noah Hotham and I think it made a significant difference. There was a different energy and look to their attack.”

Wilson’s take was affirmed by his co-panellist and fellow former All Black Mils Muliaina, who added that Hotham brought a “different mindset” to the team, one that embodied a youthful enthusiasm and optimism over the close nature of some of the team’s recent losses.

Further praise for the young halfback was lodged by Sir John Kirwin, who said: “He reminds me a little bit of Marshy (Justin Marshall); darting around the fringes, having a go, not worrying about stuff.”

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In addition to his eight carries, 55 passes and six kicks, the halfback completed 15 tackles with two try assists.

“The biggest selection question for me right now is Noah Hotham,” Wilson continued. “What is it you do right now? Because you weren’t going to play him, to start him in this game. All of a sudden, he’s made an impact. He’s done something a little bit different.

“You haven’t got a Rolls Royce forward pack like you’ve had in the past. You don’t have Richie Mo’unga at first five-eighth. The best thing you can do is have someone creative, he’s (Hotham is) a creative type of player.”

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The pundits weren’t alone in praising Hotham, with new Crusaders teammate Johnny McNicholl lauding the youngster after the win.

“How good was Noah?,’’ McNicholl told Stuff. ”He wasn’t meant to play, Drummy got sick, he came on and he was everywhere.

“He gave me one of the easiest tries I’ve ever scored in my career. I just had to literally fall over the line. Hopefully, we can grow that combination through the season.”

Adding to the case for Hotham’s promotion is the impending return of playmaker Fergus Burke following the bye week the Crusaders now have.

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With a more experienced first five-eighth in the starting unit, Rob Penney may feel more comfortable backing Hotham’s youth.

Also expected to be returning after the bye is All Black Ethan Blackadder, as well as All Blacks XV loose forward Christian Lio-Willie, who will both add some punch to the Crusaders’ forward pack as the team looks to capitalise on the momentum they’ve now earned in a run of four games against Australian opposition.

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Comments

8 Comments
J
Jasyn 113 days ago

The more game time Hotham gets the better, Heinz and Drummond are complete journeymen.

Once they get all these injured players back the Crusaders still look a formidable side. Hopefully Blackadder can last five minutes before getting injured yet again, and Codie Taylor wants to return from his 8 month paid holiday.

A
Andrew 113 days ago

Another great 9 from Moolooland. Roigard, Ratima, Hotham,….

J
Jayden 114 days ago

Give him the keys, Heinz and Drummond are past it

G
Graham 114 days ago

Noah Hotham did have a great game for the Crusaders at halfback and I think will hold his place for the next game. Better front foot ball helps and the return of Rivez Reihana last week and Fergus Burke after the bye helps. Ethan Blackadder and Christian Lio-Willie will be welcomed back after the bye. Quinten Strange’s return made a big difference. His locking partner on Friday Jamie Hannah is showing he has a huge future every time he plays.

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