An improving Reds side travelled to Christchurch to take on a Crusaders side who look to be on a mission to win another Super Rugby Title. The Reds hadn’t read the script though and from the kick off charged down Ellis’s kick for touch, regained the ball and through fast and hard ruck work set up James Hanson for a try. The game was barely 60 seconds old and the Reds were up 5-0.
The Crusaders took the early set back in their stride and from the kick off worked their way into Reds territory. From here they win a penalty for not rolling away 20 metres left of the posts, Taylor Calmly slots the shot and the score is 5-3.
The Crusaders come back into the game with a vengeance and with a bit of possession they manage to get the ball over the line after a great run from Kieran Read. But Ben Lucas manages to get under the Ball and holds him up to save a certain try. From the scrum the Crusaders continue to attack until a dubious scrum penalty in front of the posts hands the Crusaders another 3 points. 5-6
About 25 minutes in form backrower Scott Higginbotham picks up the ball from the base of the ruck and scoots down the blindside. The Crusaders defenders move to tackle him and he is accidentally hit in the eye with a thumb. He has to leave the field in great discomfort and does not return until after half time.
Just before half time the Reds Set up a great maul 20 metres from The Crusaders line. They march the Maul up to 5 metres from the line. And win the scrum feed from a tackle 4 metres out from the line. The Crusaders try to push the Reds off the scrum And win a penalty right on half time but Lawrence and his assistant referee miss the illegal scrummaging from loosehead Ben Franks who uses his hand to push off the ground and get under the Reds front row. The crusaders kick the ball out and the half is over.
Just after half time the Reds win another ruck penalty and slot the kick to take the lead again 8-6
After the kick off the Crusaders regain possession and work the ball to within millimetres of the Reds line and the Reds get caught offside giving the lead back to the Crusaders 8-9
Wyatt Crockett comes onto the field and in almost his first involvement in the game shoulder charges Will Genia over the touch line. The Assistant referee is only metres away and his flag is out instantly. Crockett is sin binned for 10 and the reds convert the penalty to take back the lead 11-9.
The crusaders try a short kick off up the centre and it comes off. They work the ball off the back of a scrum into the Reds 22 and try to set up a ruck in front of the posts. Liam Gill tackle and attempted pilfer looks above board but the referee penalises him for hands in the ruck gifting the crusaders 3 points. The lead has changed again this time the Crusaders squeak in front 11-12.
This Crusaders kick off is deep into Reds territory and Rod Davis takes the catch and decides to run the ball back. Not a bad decision with only minutes on the clock. Unfortunately he is isolated in the tackle and tries to play the ball on the ground. The penalty conversion all but seals the Reds fate in this game. The Crusaders finish the game in front 11-15.
Pens: Taylor (5)
Pen: Harris (2)
Half Time: 6-5
For the Reds Scott Higginbotham has a damaged eye, Ben Lucas has a scalp wound.
For the Crusaders Luke Romano has a head wound
Right on half time the Reds are hard on attack with a Scrum 5 metres from the Crusaders line. The Crusaders are determined to keep them out. They put the shove on the scrum and even though Ben Franks pushes off the ground with his arm win a penalty. The Crusaders go into half time on a high and the Reds lose the opportunity at the hard fought for points on offer.
It’s not often you can say every player on the pitch played to their potential but I think in this game they were pretty close. If I had to pick one I would go for Scott Higginbothams first half performance. Except for a pushed pass it was pretty close to spot on.
The Talking Point
Unfortunately most of the post match talk I’ve seen is about the refereeing and it’s pretty hard to deny it was a lottery. Too many of today’s referee’s matches end in discussions of his performance and not about the game. Is it time for him to move on? Tell us what you think.