The Crusaders were made to fight for a 24-20 win over a determined Reds side in Christchurch on Friday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Reds were on fire in the early stages of this fixture. They met the challenge of the Crusaders at the collisions and breakdowns. A fine offloading display allowed them to make inroads into the hosts’ defence and score two tries in the first half.
The halftime scoreline of 10-10 did not reflect the Reds’ dominance. The Crusaders were hanging on by their fingernails in the dying stages of the half, and a series of infringements led to Tom Sanders receiving a yellow card.
The reigning champions lifted their intensity in the early stages of the second stanza. George Bridge crossed the line while Sanders was still in the sin bin. The turning point arrived when the forwards and backs combined down the left-hand touchline to set up an important score for Leicester Faingaanuku.
Richie Mo’unga converted the try to take the Crusaders nine points clear of the Reds. Goal-kicking certainly cost the Reds on the day, with all four of their tries going unconverted.
The Reds broke from deep in their own half and Henry Speight beat the cover defence to score his side’s fourth try. Bryce Hegarty, the third goal-kicker used by the Reds on the night, pushed the conversion attempt wide.
The Crusaders hung on at the death to deny the plucky Reds victory.
Crusaders – Tries: Joe Moody, George Bridge, Leicester Faingaanuku. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (3). Penalty: Mo’unga.
Reds – Tries: Chris Feauai-Sautia, Harry Wilson, Taniela Tupou, Henry Speight.
Crusaders – 15 George Bridge, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Dallas McLeod, 11 Leicester Faingaanuku, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Ere Enari, 8 Tom Sanders, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Cullen Grace, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Scott Barrett (c), 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 George Bower, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Sione Havili, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Manasa Mataele.
Reds – 15 Jock Campbell, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Isaac Lucas, 9 Scott Malolua, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Liam Wright (c), 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Harry Hockings, 4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 JP Smith.
Subs: 16 Ed Craig, 17 Dane Zander, 18 Josh Nasser, 19 Angus Blyth, 20 Fraser McReight, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Filipo Daugunu.
Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images