The Brumbies went to Christchurch looking to end a 14 year hoodoo as they took on the Crusaders who were looking to get their campaign back on track. 80 minutes later, the visitors realised why the Crusaders are seven time Super Rugby Champions after a dominant display at the breakdown in the 40-20 win.
The boot of flyhalf Colin Slade went a long way to securing the win for the hosts with seven penalty goals and a conversion for a personal haul of 23 points. The match also saw the return of All Black captain Richie McCaw who was up to his usual standard after a lay off due to a thumb injury.
The opening minutes were frantic with both sides getting their hands on the ball and spreading the ball to the wings attempting to get the wider players involved and as a result, referee Glen Jackson was penalising both sides.
The Crusaders were the first to open the scoring in the seventh minute with the first Slade’s seven penalties. The home side also had injury concerns to battle with in the opening minutes with Matt Todd and Kieron Fonotia succumbing to injury.
The home side were getting on top at the breakdown, with a number of turnovers halting any passages of play for the Brumbies and one of those turnovers almost turned into the opening try but came to nothing after a poor pass but the Crusaders were able to land their second penalty from an earlier infringement.
Nic White got the Brumbies on the board with a long range penalty goal in the 15th minute but the Crusaders responded with a third penalty goal within the opening 20 minutes as the penalty count started to mount against the Brumbies.
The kicking yips for Christian Lealiifano appeared to still be affecting him as his first penalty attempt from a handy position was wide of the mark. In contrast, Slade had his fourth of the game before the 30 minute mark.
It took until this point for the Brumbies to really string anything together on attack in the Crusaders half since the early minutes and despite the dominance of the home side, the Brumbies were only six points in arrears after another Nic White penalty.
With the half winding down, Slade proved the heavy conditions of the field were not a problem as he converted his fifth penalty from as many attempts in the half. With seconds remaining in the half, the Brumbies secured a turnover that was kicked back to the Crusaders by Ben Alexander and a few phases later, winger Johnny McNicholl slipped through three defenders to score the first try of the game to give the Crusaders a 22-6 lead at the break.
The Brumbies opened the second half with more intensity with some direct running from the backline and it paid off with Stephen Moore scoring a try within minutes of the resumption to reduce the margin to nine points.
That is where the good news ended with another Crusaders three pointer from Slade following a scrum penalty on the Brumbies 22. The scrums weren’t a factor in the game to this point with only three in total all resulting in the intervention of the referee’s whistle.
The Crusaders defence was proving very vital and it pressured the Brumbies into a clearing kick from Toomua that was charged down by Sam Whitelock and big winger Nemani Nadolo dived over to extend the margin to 17 points.
With the game slipping away from the Brumbies, they kept trying to breakthrough the Crusaders defence but they stayed strong and were able to keep out whatever the Brumbies threw at them, particularly on their own line.
The home side scored their third try of the night with five minutes remaining to Luke Whitelock after the ball was toed ahead from Nadolo and got the luck of the bounce.
The Brumbies did get a consolation try right at the death to Pat McCabe as the Crusaders switched off with the game well won by this point.
The 40 points scored by the Crusaders continued a trend where they have scored 30 points or more at home against the Brumbies for the seventh time – eight if you include the 2011 trip to Nelson.
The Brumbies will have plenty to work on at training this week with former head coach Jake White bringing his Sharks team to Canberra next Saturday.
The Game Changer
Just on half time the Brumbies had a turnover that ended up with Ben Alexander kicking it away and a few phases later, Johnny McNicholl scored the opening try to give the Crusaders a comfortable lead.
The G&GR MOTM
Colin Slade – The Crusaders had struggled with goalkicking in the absence of Dan Carter this season but Slade showed he can step up to National duties after kicking 8/10.
It was a tough night at the office, however Pat McCabe looked good when he came on and scored right at the death.
Matt Toomua tried his best to get the backline going and was solid in defence.
Score & Scorers
[one_half last=”no”]CRUSADERS 40
Tries: McNicholl, Nadolo, L Whitelock
Conversions: Slade, Heinz
Penalties: Slade 7
[one_half last=”yes”]BRUMBIES 20
Tries: Moore, McCabe
Conversions: Lealiifano, Toomua
Penalties: White 2
68 mins – Luke Romano (Crusaders)