Todd Blackadder’s Crusaders eased past the Highlanders in Christchurch.
The win never looked in doubt as the Crusaders held a 16 – 0 lead at half time before putting the match beyond doubt in the last ten minutes, winning 24 – 8.
A try in each half together with four Tyler Bleyendaal penalties secured the Crusaders their fourth win for the season, keeping them in touch with the Hurricanes and Chiefs in the New Zealand conference. Robbie Freuan scored on the half time hooter after the Crusaders enjoyed in excess of 80% of the territory in the half, finally breaking the Highlanders defence. It was a strong performance from the Highlanders defence that prevented the Crusaders from wrapping up the match by half time.
The Crusaders continued to dominate the both the possession and territory stats, eventually spending ten minutes in the Highlanders 22m before Tom Taylor eventually got over the line with five minutes left in the match.
The second started better for the Highlanders as they got on the board thanks to a try from Jason Emery, before Colin Slade landed a penalty trying to close the gap.
The Highlanders have now lost the first eight matches of the season and do not look any closer to winning a match, not being able to put a full eighty minute performance together. Their line-outs struggled all match long and their scrum at one point took a beating against a seven man scrum Crusaders scrum.
Ben Franks was shown a yellow card early in the first half, throwing (and landing) a punch. The one man advantage did little to help the Highlanders’ cause, as they continued to concede penalties.
The Highlanders enjoy a bye next weekend in which they can regroup and come back stronger and hopefully can pick up their first win of the season. The Crusaders remain in Christchurch to host the Rebels in a Sunday clash.
By Richard Ferguson