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'They're gone': Crusaders on the ropes as disastrous season continues

By Finn Morton
Sevu Reece of the Crusaders reacts after losing the round nine Super Rugby Pacific match between Western Force and Crusaders at HBF Park on April 20, 2024, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Janelle St Pierre/Getty Images)

The Crusaders’ quest for another Super Rugby Pacific crown appears over this season with former Wallaby Stephen Hoiles claiming the defending champions are “gone” from the title race after another disastrous defeat.


One week ago on Stan Sports’ Rugby Heaven, Hoiles told Sean Maloney and Morgan Turinui that he wanted to give the Crusaders one more week. The serial champions were second-last with a 1-6 record ahead of a decisive fixture.

It’s not very often in sport that a bottom two clash at the halfway point of the season captures headlines, but this is the Crusaders after all. They had the Western Force up next in a crucial clash at Perth’s HBF Park.

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But it wasn’t the Crusaders’ night. The Force took a 16-5 lead into the sheds at half-time and continued to control proceedings afterwards as they claimed a 22-point win which saw the men from out west leapfroged their opponents on the ladder.

The Crusaders are now last on the standings. They’re the only team yet to win two matches this season, and with the playoffs just around the corner, it doesn’t look good for the reigning champions.

“You’ve seen both sides of it. You’ve seen people saying this is the Force’s best ever win and the Crusaders’ worst-ever loss,” Hoiles said on Stan Sports’ Between Two Posts.

“I wasn’t surprised at the Force winning, I was surprised in how good they looked in several aspects of their play. The best they’ve looked defensively in a long time.


“It’s still hard to work out, is it just because the Crusaders are having such a terrible run this year?

“The Force looked better, they looked as good as I’ve seen them this year, but I reckon we can almost put a line through the Crusaders… they’re gone.”

Match Summary

Penalty Goals
Drop Goals
Line Breaks
Turnovers Lost
Turnovers Won

The Crusaders’ aspirations of turning their season around against the lowly-ranked Force got off to a positive start with marquee off-season recruit Levi Aumua scoring just a few minutes into the contest.

But the next 37 minutes were practically controlled by the home team. With the HBF Park crowd spurring the Force on, the hosts scored two tries to none as they overcame a yellow card to Carlo Tizzano.


There were hints of a Crusaders comeback during the second 40 but the Fore proved too strong in the end, with the Crusaders unable to get to within seven points at any stage of that half. It was a famous, drought-breaking night out west.

“The Rebels now go to Christchurch next week… we cannot get our head around judging the career on 2024 form because you’re just waiting for the real Crusaders to come back,” ex-Wallaby Morgan Turinui added.

“You cannot bet against them, judge against or talk negatively about that red and black jersey because it just feels wrong.

“That shouldn’t be surprising… (the Force) never looked in trouble, even when they conceded early. They were smart, they handled 14 on 15 well because (Carlo) Tizzano was on the pine for 10 minutes.”


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Jon 23 hours 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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