The Crusaders were made to work hard against a determined Sunwolves side to earn a 33-11 win in Christchurch on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The Crusaders, who welcomed back the experience of All Blacks Israel Dagg and Owen Franks, were largely stifled by some good defending by the visitors, with wet conditions contributing to plenty of handling errors throughout the game.
After bringing themselves in touching distance in the second half with two Hayden Parker penalties, the visitors’ hard work was undone by two good tries from Ryan Crotty and Manasa Mataele within 10 minutes.
The home side got off to a flying start as Mike Delany broke through a gap and floated a pass over the top to Crotty, who scored his first. Flank Matt Todd was then driven over by a powerful rolling maul 5m from the Sunwolves line, with Delany’s two conversions making it 14-0.
However, the Sunwolves quickly recomposed themselves and after a number of attempts at the Crusaders tryline, good hands through the backline saw Michael Little acrobatically dive over in the corner.
As the rain started to pour down in Christchurch, the Crusaders kept hammering at the Sunwolves’ line, but some stubborn defending and a slippery ball ensured that the score stayed 14-5 at half-time.
The visitors got off to a good start in the second half, earning two early penalties, which Parker converted to make it a three-point game.
After a period of time in the Sunwolves half, the Crusaders stayed patient, with Crotty stepping through a number of would-be tacklers to go in for his second. They then extended their lead when Tim Bateman managed to get a great offload away to Mataele, who ran in untouched.
In the last play of the game, some good interchanging between the Crusaders’ back three led to George Bridge setting replacement scrumhalf Jack Stratton clear to seal the victory for the home side.
Crusaders – Tries: Ryan Crotty (2), Matt Todd, Manasa Mataele, Jack Stratton. Conversions: Mike Delany (3), Mitchell Hunt.
Sunwolves – Try: Michael Little. Penalties: Hayden Parker (2).
Crusaders – 15 George Bridge, 14. Israel Dagg, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Manasa Mataele, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Tom Sanders, 7 Matt Todd (c), 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Tim Perry.
Subs: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Chris King, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Jack Stratton, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Seta Tamanivalu.
Sunwolves – 15 William Tupou, 14 Hosea Saumaki, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Michael Little, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Pieter Labuschagne (c), 6 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 James Moore, 3 Jiwon Koo, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Craig Millar.
Subs: 16 Yusuke Niwai, 17 Shintato Ishihara, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Sam Wykes, 20 Edward Quirk, 21 Yutaka Nagare, 22 Ryoto Nakamura, 23 Semisi Masirewa.
Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images