Jone Macilai scored a hat-trick of tries as the Crusaders secured a bonus-point 38-5 win over the Reds in Christchurch on Friday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
There were some question marks over how the Saders would cope in the absence of suspended powerhouse wing Nemani Nadolo, who has topped the Crusaders’ stats for clean breaks (18), defenders beaten (28), metres made (549) and offloads (17). That question was answered loudly and clearly by Macilai, who shifted from the right to left wing and provided a similar clinical edge with ball in hand.
As indicated by SARugbymag.co.za’s Opta-powered stats, in addition to his three tries, he also made 92m, four clean breaks, completed seven tackles, beat six defenders and made three offloads.
The Reds would have known they were in for a long day when the Saders produced two beautiful, attacking interplay movements within the opening 10 minutes, with Macilai finishing off both opportunities with minimal fuss.
It sent the Saders into a handy 14-0 lead, and although the Reds then did well to work their way back into the clash and were able to enjoy 66% of the possession in the opening half, they failed to make the most of their opportunities.
The Saders have had the best tackle success in the competition (87.6%), and their proficiency in this area was again illustrated by the fact that despite having to make more than triple the number of tackles (66 to 18) in the first half, they only missed seven in comparison to the Reds’ 13.
In the opening quarter, the Crusaders were also guilty of some ill-discipline as they conceded five penalties to one, but the Reds opted to turn down two shots at goal and came away with no reward, while flyhalf Jake McIntyre also missed a 20th-minute penalty.
In the end, the Crusaders duly made them pay as they again displayed their clinical finishing as lock Scott Barrett barged over to score one final try before half-time.
Macilai banked his hat-trick with a superb finish in the 43rd minute to extend the Saders’ advantage to 26 points, before the Reds finally opened their account when centre Campbell Magnay latched on to a chip and darted over next to the posts. Yet the Reds’ woes were exacerbated when the simple conversion was charged down.
Although there was a potential lifeline for the Reds when Crusaders captain Kieran Read was sent to the sin bin for collapsing a maul, the hosts added some security to their try-scoring bonus point when impressive flanker Jordan Taufua threw a superb dummy and went over to score his team’s fifth try with 15 minutes left to play.
Having conceded no points even while at a one-man disadvantage, the Saders then scored one more try when they were back at full strength, with hooker Codie Taylor powering over from the back of a lineout drive.
To end a miserable night for the Reds, right winger Chris Feauai-Sautia butchered a last-minute opportunity to score in the corner.
Crusaders – Tries: Jone Macilai (3), Scott Barret, Jordan Taufua, Codie Taylor. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (3), Marty McKenzie.
Reds – Try: Campbell Magnay.
Crusaders – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 David Havili, 11 Jone Macilai, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Mike Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor,1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Tim Boys, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 Ryan Crotty, 23 Marty McKenzie.
Reds – 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Campbell Magnay, 12 Anthony Fainga’a, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Curtis Browning, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ben Matwijow, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 James Slipper (c).
Subs: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Michael Gunn, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Sam Greene, 23 Junior Laloifi.
Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images