Dan Carter limped off in the 16-14 win but it was the Tahs who won the respect of the Crusaders.
Trial matches certainly go beyond a scoreline and this was highlighted in Sydney where on the surface the Seven-time Super Rugby Champion Crusaders would appear the happier team after beating the Tahs 16-14 in their final pre-season match.
But the context to the match was the Tahs refused to kick penalty goals and turned down nine kickable attempts as they focused more on the new attacking philosophy of new coach Michael Cheika, who had success with Ireland’s Leinester in all leagues.
Cheika, who has adopted a very different mindset to the Tahs, has refused for his team to kick a penalty goal in any of their pre-season matches.
Crusaders captain Kieran Read says it is a different beast that awaits teams in Sydney this season.
‘They looked after the ball really well and have some attacking players out wide,’ Read told the media.
‘I don’t think they stressed us as much perhaps as they could have but certainly they’ve got a lot of structure there which is going to make them a pretty serious threat in the competition.’
Former Rugby League star and Aussie Rules import Israel Folau was named man of the match and again impressed with several line breaks. Folau has been good in all three the Tahs warm-up matches.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder agreed in the difference of style in the Tahs.
‘I can see what they are trying to do in the middle of the field in some of their set plays off rucks and things like that,’ he said. ‘They’re looking to hit the midfield with some inside passes to re-stress the inside defenders. They are playing slightly different patterns definitely.’
The Tahs scored two tries to one and the Crusaders needed penalty kicks to win the game.
All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter started but limped off at half-time with a bruised knee. He is in doubt for the weekend’s opening match.
By Mark Keohane