Manasa Mataele scored a hat-trick as the Crusaders recorded a 50-3 win over the Sunwolves in Christchurch on Friday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Playing on a waterlogged surface following torrential rain brought on by Cyclone Cook, the Crusaders easily dispatched their visitors to maintain their perfect record and consolidate their place at the top of the New Zealand conference with a seventh successive win of the season.
The Sunwolves claimed a famous win over the Bulls in Tokyo last weekend, but a first-ever match on New Zealand soil was always going to be a difficult challenge for them. And so it proved.
The Crusaders welcomed back Kieran Read in what was his first game of the season as well as injured duo Seta Tamanivalu and Richie Mo’unga, but most of the focus – deservedly so – was on Wyatt Crockett. The veteran loosehead prop led the team out onto the field in what was his recorded-breaking 176th Super Rugby appearance.
In a ruthless display, the hosts dominated the set pieces and controlled possession from start to finish.
The Crusaders’ ball-in-hand approach and offloading ability allowed them to score five first-half tries, including a nine-minute hat-trick from winger Mataele, to rack up a 29-3 lead at the break. The Sunwolves’ points came via a penalty after Tamanivalu was punished with a yellow card for tackling a player in the air.
The Crusaders’ relentless attack and stern defence didn’t ease up in the second half. Despite a slight improvement in the possession stakes, the Sunwolves were kept scoreless, while the hosts added three more tries to reach the 50-point mark.
The hosts dropped their guard somewhat in the last 20 minutes, but the Sunwolves were not good enough to punish their unforced errors.
Crusaders – Tries: Kieran Read, Ben Funnell, Manasa Mataele (3), Pete Samu, George Bridge, Whetu Douglas. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (3), Marty McKenzie (2).
Sunwolves – Penalty: Yu Tamura.
Crusaders – 15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Manasa Mataele, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Pete Samu, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Luke Romano, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Whetu Douglas, 21 Leon Fukofuka, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 George Bridge.
Sunwolves – 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Takaaki Nakazuru, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Teruya Goto, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, 7 Shunsuke Nunomaki, 6 Ed Quirk (c), 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Takeshi Kizu, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Subs: 16 Yusuke Niwai, 17 Koki Yamamoto, 18 Heiichiro Ito, 19 Shinya Makabe, 20 Yuhimaru Mimura, 21 Yuki Yatomi, 22 William Tupou, 23 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.
Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images