The Crusaders claimed their fourth successive win against the Highlanders with a bonus-point 33-13 victory in Christchurch on Friday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The defending champions have now won seven of their last eight games against the Highlanders, with their last four – including this game – coming by a margin of 20 points. The Highlanders have now only won one of their opening three games in the season and will be under pressure to claim a win against the Rebels in Dunedin before travelling to Pretoria and Buenos Aires.
The platform for the win was laid in the first half, as the Crusaders punished their opponents for some slack defending, scoring four tries and racing into a 26-8 half-time lead.
At that stage, the Highlanders had missed 21 of their 66 tackle attempts, falling off far too many of their one-one-one efforts, allowing the Crusaders to get easy momentum with ball-in-hand.
The Highlanders did have their chances to get back into the match in the second half, as the game became a bit loose and unstructured. They did give themselves hope of a late comeback when Jona Nareki crossed in the corner to make it a 13-point game with 15 minutes left to play.
However, replacement flank Sione Havili forced his way over in the closing stages to end those hopes and ensure that the Crusaders came away with all five points.
Crusaders – Tries: Codie Taylor, Tom Christie, Braydon Ennor, George Bridge, Sione Havili. Conversions: David Havili (3).
Highlanders – Try: Michael Collins, Jona Nareki. Penalty: Josh Ioane.
Crusaders – 15 David Havili (c), 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Tom Sanders, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Cullen Grace, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Isi Tu’ungafasi, 18 George Bower, 19 Ethan Roots, 20 Sione Havili, 21 Michell Drummond, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Leicester Fainga’anuku.
Highlanders – 15 Michael Collins, 14 Kirisi Kuridrani, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Josh Ioane, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 7 James Lentjes (c), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Jesse Parete, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Conan O’Donnell, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Teihorangi Walden, 23 Josh McKay.
Photo: Teaukura Moetaua/Getty Images