RYAN VREDE reports on the Crusaders’ emphatic 42-14 victory over the Hurricanes in Wellington.
Ominously for their future opponents, the Crusaders are starting to show glimpses of their best form. They comfortably and clinically negotiated the Stormers last week, and, faced with a vastly inferior opponent in the Canes, they were brutal in their demolition.
The Canes had no rebuttal to the Saders’ physicality, upon which this victory was built. The visitors bossed the gainline and in so doing controlled the flow and tempo of the match. How they used the ball thereafter was an education in itself. Their tactical awareness, decision-making and execution of the chosen action was rarely anything but precise.
Notably the Saders’ key players are settling into their groove. Kieran Read has become increasingly prominent in recent weeks and was excellent this evening. He is getting back to the form that made him one of the world’s best players in 2011. Zac Guilford seems to have closed an alcohol-drenched chapter of his life and is exhibiting the form that explained why so many in the New Zealand rugby fraternity were prepared to endure his wayward spell. Andy Ellis and Tom Taylor are growing as a halfback pair, while Dan Carter – although not in his favoured position – remains a class apart. They have depth no other Kiwi franchise can boast and if injuries don’t befall them, they will be hard to stop going forward.
It was all over by half-time, the Saders having bagged the bonus-point in their 32-7 lead. Their opening try was vintage Saders – Guilford taking an inside pass off the flyhalf and cutting the line at blinding pace before dishing off to Read to score. The Canes were defensively generous with the next score – Carter finishing after an Israel Dagg break – but could do little to halt Robbie Fruean’s run for the third, the midfielder fielding a high kick then sprinting 40m to score. Dagg crossed with half-time looming and even though the Canes scored either side of the break, they never looked like mounting a comeback.
Their first half effort was marked by poor tactical kicking – a method they aren’t comfortable with – and in the second they reverted to an expansive approach which the Saders repelled easily. Dagg would score again going into the final quarter but the Canes’ resolves was already eroded by then and the Saders eased through the closing minutes for a statement win.