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Watch: Shannon Frizell dents Crusaders' Super Rugby Aotearoa title chances with explosive opening minute try

(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Not many have given the Highlanders much of a chance of doing the Blues and Hurricanes a favour in dispatching the Crusaders in Christchurch this weekend.


The hosts were strong favourites leading into the South Island derby with the Super Rugby Aotearoa crown in reach.

Sitting atop of the table, the reigning Super Rugby champions needed just a win to clinch the title against fourth-placed Highlanders, who had only tasted success twice this season from six outings.

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Aaron Mauger speaks to media

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Aaron Mauger speaks to media

Playing in front of a packed house at Orangetheory Stadium, the hosts were understandably paying small money to bag the victory, but the Highlanders sent an early warning of intent.

While they have nothing left to play for in the domestic league, the Dunedin club started the game in manner that showed they weren’t there to simply make up the numbers.

That was reflected in the way their forward pack smashed their way through a limp Crusaders defence in the opening passage of play from the kick-off, which led to a monstrous try from in-form All Blacks loose forward Shannon Frizell.

The rapid start put the Highlanders at an early 7-0 advantage, keeping the Blues’ and Hurricanes’ faint title chances alive in doing so.


It also drew an emphatic response from pundits on Twitter, who were quick to laud Frizell’s efforts throughout the first 40 minutes.


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Jon 6 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

> it was apparent Robertson was worried about his lack of experience at half-back, hence the decision to start veteran TJ Perenara and put Finlay Christie, the next most experienced number nine, on the bench. I don’t think it was this at all. It was a general scope he was putting over all the playerbase, he went with this cohesion factor in every position. > If the main priority is to build different tactical elements to the gameplan, then Ratima is the man in whom Robertson needs to trust and promote. This also I think is antagonist towards the reference game plans. The other plans do not need the speed of which Perenara (atleast) can’t provide, and I think personal is going to be the main point of difference between these games/opponents. That is the aspect of which I think most people will struggle to grasp, a horses for course selection policy over the typical ‘Top All Black 15’. That best 15 group of players is going to have to get broken down into categories. So it test one we saw Christie control the game to nullify the English threats out of existence and grind to a win. In test two we saw Ratima need to come on which dictated that this time they would run them off their feet with speed and the space did open up and the victory did come. Horses for courses. The same concepts are going to exist for every group, front row, lock and loose forward balance, midfield, and outside backs all can have positional changes that the players may be asked to accentualize on and develop. There might be some that _it_ will not ever click for, but they’ll hopefully still be getting to enjoy unbelievable comeback victories and late game shutouts to close it down. Knowing does not mean not enjoying.

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