The Crusaders scored eight tries in their 57-24 demolition of the Stormers in Christchurch on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
Most will remember this clash for the sublime handling and running lines of the Crusaders. On the back of a dominant set-piece and breakdown performance, the Cantabrians put on a show, scoring eight tries and ultimately securing their eighth straight win in 2017.
Most of the credit should go to the Crusaders forwards, though. The hosts fought hard to slow the Stormers down at the rucks and collisions. They kicked well to force the Stormers back into their own 22, and then used their impressive scrum and lineout to launch an attack.
George Bridge scored three tries for the hosts inside 33 minutes. The scoreboard read 24-3 to the Crusaders at that point, and Stormers heads started to drop.
Coach Robbie Fleck rested skipper Siya Kolisi for this match and selected a back-row combination of Nizaam Carr, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Sikhumbuzo Notshe. Those selections didn't have the desired impact at the breakdown and lineout. The Crusaders got the better of the Stormers in both departments.
All Blacks No 8 Kieran Read scored a brace in the dying minutes of the first half to extend the hosts' lead to 36-3. At that stage, the Crusaders were on the front foot. The Stormers did themselves no favours, though, by missing a series of first-time tackles.
The third quarter of the contest was by far the most competitive. Cheslin Kolbe and Bjorn Basson scored tries as the visitors attempted to get back into the game.
But the Crusaders shifted up a gear in the 60th minute. Michael Alaalato scored from close range, and then Pete Samu showed impressive pace to run the length of the field. Richie Mo'unga's conversion brought up the Crusaders' half-century.
Frans Malherbe scored the visitors' third try soon after that. The score marked the first time the Crusaders had conceded a try in the fourth quarter in 2017.
Yet there was no cause for celebration as the Crusaders finished strongly to claim a record victory against the Stormers. Not since the 2016 quarter-final against the Chiefs – which ended 60-21 in favour of the Kiwi side – have the Stormers copped such a hiding.
The Cape side have much to rectify in the coming weeks. They will face the Highlanders in round 10, and then the Hurricanes in round 11. The Stormers have not won a match in New Zealand since 2013.
Crusaders – Tries: George Bridge (3), Kieran Read (2), Michael Alaalatoa, Pete Samu, Manasa Mataele. Conversions: Richie Mo'unga (7). Penalty: Mo'unga.
Stormers – Tries: Cheslin Kolbe, Bjorn Basson, Frans Malherbe. Conversions: Rob du Preez (3). Penalty: Du Preez.
Crusaders – 15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Manasa Mataele.
Stormers – 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Eben Etzebeth (c), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Cobus Wiese, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Dan Kriel.
Photo: Martin Hunter/AFP Photo