The Brumbies went to Christchurch knowing what was required of them to continue their run in this years installment of Super Rugby. Sadly 80 minutes later that run had ended by a score of 40-22 at the hands of a Crusaders team hell bent on getting their season back on track after 3 straight defeats and hungrier to play semi finals Rugby.
The home team were expected to be suffering the effects of travelling back from the Republic but showed none of this as they put the sword through a rather disappointing Brumbies outfit. If it wasn’t for Daniel Carter’s errant boot, the Crusaders could have won by more but if you only looked at the territory and possession stats you would be wondering why the Brumbies lost by as much as they did.
The Crusaders are known for punishing teams that make even the slightest errors. On Friday night they did what they do best and scored tries from all over the park, including at least 2 long range efforts following Brumbies errors in the first half alone. The visitors did themselves no favors by dropping the ball in crucial areas of the field and their scrum, which had looked solid for most of the season, was given a masterclass by the home front row. It got to the point where referee Bryce Lawrence was waiting to blow his whistle as soon the engagement had occurred.
The selection of Julian Huxley at fullback suggested they Brumbies would play for territory on a surface that was expected to be wet. Unfortunately the rain stayed away and the Crusaders back 3 received many gifts from poor kicking. This led to numerous counter attacking moves from one of the best in the business.
The Brumbies could have gone into their shell and conceded the game after 3 first half tries by the Crusaders. However, they started the 2nd half well through Brumbies leading try scorer Ben Alexander and brought the margin back to 7. At this point the fog rolled in and the only thing lifting was the intensity of the Crusaders. ‘Captain tackles’ as they know number 7 in NZ (or something else in Australia) scored from a pick and drive on the back of another Brumbies error, this time Josh Valentine stood on the arm of a Crusader and gave the referee no choice but to award a penalty when patience would have meant the Brumbies received one.
The one positive that came out of the game was that the Brumbies played right up until the final whistle and were rewarded with a try to replacement hooker Huia Edmonds, who was born down the road in Ashburton. Edmonds played one of the best games I have seen and would be in the mix as a backup Wallabies hooker after incumbent Stephen Moore suffered a fractured jaw during the game that will see him miss a minimum of 8 weeks of Rugby.
I would like to thank the Crusaders fans who made us feel welcome at AMI Stadium despite wearing enemy colours, unlike those back in the Kebab shop later on. They certainly know their Rugby on the South Island and were kind enough to give George Smith a round of applause for his conversion ‘attempt’ knowing that this was his last match in Super Rugby.
Unfortunately for NZ shopkeepers, I can’t understand why All Blacks merchandise is being sold in the ‘Champions of the World’ shop, perhaps an issue for fair trading to look into? A big hello to the taxi driver who thinks the weight of expectation on New Zealand during the World Cup will be too great so has decided to put his hard earned on Australia to win. Finally, watching number 7 walk through the airport getting onto the plane bound for South Africa via Sydney – could this be the only time he actually went through the gate??
Put his hand up: Adam Ashley- Cooper was playing out of position and made numerous tackle busts and saved one try. one of the best in a beaten team.
Did himself no favors: Salesi Ma’afu was talked up us a possible starter during the International season but unfortunately did not play like one.
Bolter watch: Huia Edmonds came on early after a serious injury to Moore. Made some excellent runs and collected a meat pie at the death.