Nemani Nadolo scored a brace in the Crusaders' 57-24 bonus-point win against the Kings in Christchurch on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder will be pleased with the result as well as the performance. Blackadder opted to give several second-string players a run in the match against South Africa's weakest Super Rugby franchise. Ultimately, the new-look Crusaders side was still good enough to score eight tries as well as an emphatic victory.
The Kings had their moments on attack. Indeed, they went to a 10-0 lead after 13 minutes following a penalty by Louis Fouché and an intercept try by winger Luzuko Vulindlu.
But not for the first time in 2016, the Kings' defence was their undoing. The visitors were under significant pressure at the set pieces and breakdowns. The first-time tackling and general organisation on defence was well below par.
And so, the Crusaders were allowed to make easy metres and build momentum. Forwards handled like backs. Backs handled like basketball players. The Crusaders made the most of their attacking chances, and scored 29 unanswered points in the lead-up to half-time.
Nadolo scored two of the Crusaders' four first-half tries. The winger showed impressive power and pace to finish his first. His second was scored – albeit somewhat dubiously – from close range. TV replays showed no conclusive evidence of a grounding, but the match officials decided to award the try.
Not that the try would prove decisive to the outcome. The Crusaders continued to pile on the pressure after the break. They scored 14 points in the first seven minutes of the second stanza to stretch their lead to 43-10 and all but secure the result.
Blackadder made a series of changes, and the game opened up in the final 30 minutes. While the Crusaders weren't as clinical during this period, they still managed to score some well worked tries.
The Kings scored two tries of their own during this period, the first through hooker Edgar Marutlulle, and the second through openside flank Chris Cloete. They scored three tries on the night, and may view that as a positive sign.
Of course, they would do well to remember that the Crusaders weren't at full strength for this match. It should also be noted that the Kings scored two of their three tries in the final 30 minutes when the Crusaders were already well ahead on the scoreboard.
And if the Kings accept that, they should be disappointed with their defensive effort. Had the Crusaders fielded a full-strength side, the Kings may well have conceded 80-odd points.
Crusaders – Tries: Nemani Nadolo (2), Johnny McNicholl, Ben Funnell, Richie Mo'unga, Mitchell Drummond, Jone Macilai, Pete Samu. Conversions: Mo'unga (4), Ben Volavola (3). Penalty: Mo'unga.
Kings – Tries: Luzuko Vulindlu, Edgar Marutlulle, Chris Cloete. Conversions: Louis Fouché (3). Penalty: Fouché.
Crusaders – 15 Ben Volavola, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 David Havili, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Jimmy Tupou, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Mike Alaalatoa, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Leon Fukofuka, 22 Ryan Crotty, 23 Jone Macilai.
Kings – 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 Stefan Watermeyer, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Kevin Luiters, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 JC Astle, 4 Steven Sykes (c), 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Subs: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Schalk Oelofse, 20 CJ Velleman, 21 Ntando Kebe, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 JP du Plessis.
Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images