Colin Slade scored 22 points to guide the Crusaders to a 58-17 win over the Reds in Christchurch on Friday. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
Much was made this week of the final appearance of Dan Carter and Richie McCaw in Christchurch, and the two All Blacks and Crusaders stalwarts were able to bow out with a win.
Carter, playing at inside centre, showed glimpses of the form that made him the best flyhalf in world rugby, while McCaw produced a typically industrious 25 minutes after coming on during the second half.
That said, it was the man on Carter's inside who made the biggest statement on the night. Slade, whose form this season has seen him usurp Carter as the Crusaders No 10, controlled the game well from the pivot position.
He converted eight of his 10 attempts at goal, while he was a constant threat on attack. With Aaron Cruden ruled out of the World Cup, Slade is playing himself into contention for the All Blacks No 10 jersey.
The Reds were well in the contest at half-time, trailing 15-10 despite dominating territory and possession. The Crusaders looked up for it early on, as Andy Ellis went over in just the second minute. However, the Reds weathered the early storm and worked their way back into the match on the back of their set-piece dominance.
A yellow card for Crusaders lock Dominic Bird just prior to half-time and a try from Samu Kerevi had given the Reds a brief glimmer of hope, but that was extinguished at the start of the second half.
Nemani Nadolo pounced on a loose pass from the ineffective James O'Connor to run the ball in from 50m, before the floodgates well and truly opened.
Nadolo grabbed his second a couple minutes later, going over with two Reds defenders on his back, and Sam Whitelock showed the grace of a galloping gazelle from the kick-off, beating four Reds defenders on his way to one of the tries of the season.
Further tries from Matt Todd, Jone Macilai and Bird capped-off a perfect day for the Crusaders, as they gave Carter and McCaw the perfect Christchurch send-off.
Crusaders – Tries: Andy Ellis, Colin Slade, Nemani Nadolo (2), Sam Whitelock, Matt Todd, Jone Macilai, Dominic Bird. Conversions: Colin Slade (6). Penalties: Slade (2).
Reds – Tries: Samu Kerevi, Chris Feauai-Sautia. Conversions: James O'Connor (2). Penalty: O'Connor.
Crusaders – 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Nafi Tuitavake, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Joe Moody, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Richie McCaw, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Kieron Fonotia, 23 Jone Macilai.
Reds – 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Fainga’a, 11 James O’Connor, 10 Nick Frisby, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper (c).
Subs: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Sef Fa'agase, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Marco Kotze, 20 Lolo Fakaosilea, 21 Scott Gale, 22 Ben Tapuai, 23 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.
Photo: Martin Hunter/Getty Images