Super Rugby

Western Force v. Canterbury Crusaders: The Big Mo’

Western Force v. Canterbury Crusaders: The Big Mo’

Paddy Dellit: good as gold

In a US Presidential election it’s called the big mo’ and it’s about who has the momentum at various points in the campaign, and importantly, at the business end.

Saturday night’s entertaining Western Force versus Canterbury Crusaders encounter was very much like that. The Crusaders came out of the blocks like Usain Bolt, scored two quick tries to Israel Dagg and were leading 15–3 after 15 minutes.

Their sense of purpose and intent was overwhelming. They threw the ball around enthusiastically and with plenty of width and pace. The fact that they had the players to do this was already a ‘known known’.  I guess they sensed that the Force backs weren’t of the same calibre.

An eventual five-try-to-two, 42–30 win by the Crusaders suggests that was always the case but that’s not quite how it played out.

The momentum started to shift after the initial Crusaders burst. It was a bit like a journeyman pugilist – maybe a Danny Green, as he fought a flash Anthony Mundine? ‘Choc’ has all the skills and talent but Green the staying power and ticker. So, the Force pugilists soaked up all this pressure and didn’t wilt under the onslaught.

They slowly fought back as Rabbit O’Connor knocked over three successive penalties and then whammo! David Smith picked up the ball around their 22-metre line after an SBW & Co. attack ended in a handling error. After gaining metres he passed left to Rabs along the sideline who stepped the Crusaders defence. Subsequent passes to Charles, Ripia and eventually an unmarked Cameron Shepherd led to a try as good as anything the Crusaders could muster. 16–15 to the Force and game-on!

Zac Guildford: jet shoes

However, a minute or two later Israel Dagg, who along with Zac Guildford was having a wow of a match, broke through the Force defensive line (slow old forwards again) and passed to SBW on his inside. An unbroken run to the line led to try number three under the posts. Another Rabbit penalty goal put the halftime score at 22–19 favouring the Crusaders.

The Saders’ backs were dangerous every time they handled the ball. They usually had four or so players defending at the rear who were ready to counter-attack every time the ball was kicked to them. The Canterbury forwards were outstanding at the breakdown, especially in flooding the ruck at selected moments and their strength over the ball. The Crusaders were also helped by 29 (to six) Force missed tackles in the first half.

Matt Berquist extended the lead with a penalty after halftime but an extraordinary thing happened in the 47th minute. A referee (Vinnie Munro, a Kiwi to boot) had the audacity to send Sir Richie to the sin bin for persistent offending. There goes the next G&GR pie graph!  Paddy at the IRB must have known beforehand that this was going to happen, hence Vinnie’s name being missing from the RWC refereeing panel. Keep up the good work Vincent.

It was Ripia this time who slotted the goal for Sir Richie’s offending as Rabbit was indisposed getting some medical attention. The big mo’ was changing again and while McCaw was languishing on the naughty chair the Force piled on 11 points in quick order. The highlight was Rabbit forcing a Crusaders turnover, then cut-outs and quick hands led to another Cam Shepherd try in the corner. A Rabbit penalty goal five minutes later and it was 30–25 to the Force with about 20 minutes left to play.

Geez, the sell-out crowd at nib Stadium were certainly getting their money’s worth. Unfortunately, Sir Richie reappeared on the scene and at the business end of the match the Crusaders piled on the pressure. After another Berquist penalty, a Force defensive scrum was destroyed and the tight-head win eventually led to Corey Flynn making a successful dab to the line. The bonus point was secured. A short time later the Crusaders scored their last try, to Fotuali’i.

Brace of tries

There were no knockout blows in this match and the Force were never on the canvas. The Crusaders won a hard fought-encounter on a points decision. They were just too good. The 52 missed tackles says something about both the attack and the defence.

Sir Richie and Matt Todd won the breakdown battle easily, and SBW had the better of Rabbit although direct confrontation appeared rare. You’ve got to give the Force their due as they played a full part in this spectacle. Great to watch.

Wallaby Watch:

Put his hand up: Richard Brown again did plenty of work in both attack and defence in this match. He’s certainly in the middle of a purple patch.  

Did himself no favours: Willie Ripia (2 completed tackles) and Rabbit O’Connor (6) missed 14 tackles between them (7 each). They need to tighten up this channel.

Bolter watch: Paddy Dellit had another impressive match at outside centre. Look, he’s no SBW or Robbie Fruean, but he got through a power of work.

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