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Watch: Stewart Cruden's masterful performance against Tonga Schools

By RugbyPass

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The New Zealand Maori under-18s have come away with a 38-26 win over the Tongan schoolboys in Porirua over the weekend. A first half blitz had the Maori up 31-7 at halftime before the Tongans mounted a second half comeback.

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The game featured another masterful performance by Stewart Cruden, younger brother of All Black Aaron. He combined with halfback Shamara Brooks to cut Tonga apart with a controlled kicking game, including a perfectly placed 50m touch finder off the wrong foot.

“Dad has always been there hassling me to get out on the field and get my kicking and passing going, even over summer.” Cruden said in a recent interview, and it’s clear the work is paying off.

Within the first 20 minutes, Cruden racked up two line break assists (one pass, one kick, both resulting in tries) and one line break. Brooks finished off one of the breaks with a try assist, and bagged the third try himself on a standard ‘8-9’ blindside play.

The modern 10 not only controls the game but ‘creates the game’. Cruden chances his arm, and soon enough the ball bounces his way or for one of his teammates.

It’s not just the kicking, his passing game is pulling strings too.

Late in the first half Cruden throws a perfectly weighted cutout pass, dropping a dime into the lap of his centre just past the outstretched fingers of the defender.

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Brooks provides great service – but when he wants to take over, operates independently, rather than in unison, with Cruden. He links with forwards flat, and toys with ruck defenders in the A and B channels, but offers playmaking skills as well. They are partners in crime, but robbing different banks.

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When Brooks takes the reigns, it takes some load off Cruden but there is no drop in creativity. No look inside passes, goose steps, long balls. He finished the half with two try assists, two line break assists, one line break and one try.

With the game in the bag, both players played most of the second half out of position with Brooks at first five and Cruden at second five. They had little ball as the Tongan resurgence took over, but they still managed a couple of highlight plays before the day was done.

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Both players will push for New Zealand schoolboys next year and wouldn’t look out of place in a black jersey. Although if they don’t make it, it won’t prove much; older brother Aaron was left out of the New Zealand schoolboys squad in 2006.

Stewart Cruden

Line Breaks: 1

Line Break Assists: 5

Try Assists: 1

Defenders Beaten: 5

Offloads: 1

 

Shamara Brooks

Line Breaks: 2

Line Break Assists: 3

Try Assists: 2

Tries: 1

Defenders Beaten: 5

Watch Cruden’s battle with Fergus Burke:

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