The Crusaders opened their Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign with a bonus-point 39-25 victory over the Hurricanes in Wellington on Sunday. DYLAN JACK reports.
It was the defending Vodacom Super Rugby champions’ sixth win in a row against the Hurricanes – who have suffered back-to-back defeats at home for the first time since 2014.
As it was after their opening-round loss to the Blues, the Hurricanes will be concerned over their malfunctioning lineout, while their defensive structures will also need urgent redress as the Crusaders were allowed far too much freedom to spread the ball at times.
The Hurricanes have a bye in round three before facing the Chiefs – who are also coming off two successive losses – in round four. The Crusaders would be eager to build on this as they take on the Chiefs in Christchurch in round three.
After sitting out the first round of action through a bye, the Crusaders were clearly keen to get stuck in and make up for lost time as they took just under a minute to score the opening try off their very first attack, with Sevu Reece finishing off a flowing move.
However, it was clear that much like the other New Zealand teams, the Crusaders were going to take some time to adapt to the officiating as their lack of discipline allowed the Hurricanes to stay in touch. Hurricanes flyhalf Jackson Garden-Bachop had a fantastic match off the kicking tee as he slotted four penalties and a drop goal in the first half.
Tries from the centre partnership of Braydon Ennor and Jack Goodhue – who punished a bad error from Hurricanes fullback Chase Tiatia – saw the Crusaders go into the break with a narrow 19-15 lead.
A tight second half saw Garden-Bachop and Mo’unga trade penalties, before the Hurricanes leveled the scores at 25-25 when replacement hooker Asafo Aumua forced his way over the line from close range.
However, a decisive two-punch knockout blow was then landed as the Crusaders once again ruthlessly punished the Hurricanes for a couple of errors. When it looked like he was going to be forced into touch, Hurricanes replacement wing Kobus van Wyk recklessly flung the ball back into play, only to see it go into Mo’unga’s hands with the Crusaders flyhalf scoring his side’s fourth try.
David Havili then ran a fantastic line to slice through a big gap in the Hurricanes defence and all but seal the result with fewer than 10 minutes to play.
Hurricanes – Tries: Asafi Aumua. Conversions: Jackson Garden-Bachop. Penalties: Garden-Bachop (5). Drop goal: Garden-Bachop
Crusaders – Tries: Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue, Richie Mo’unga, David Havili. Conversions: Mo’unga (4). Penalties: Mo’unga (2)
Hurricanes – 15 Chase Tiatia, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 TJ Perenara (co-captain), 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Vaea Fifita, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Dane Coles (co-captain), 1 Fraser Armstrong.
Subs: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Ben May, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Billy Proctor, 23 Kobus van Wyk.
Crusaders – 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Cullen Grace, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor (c), 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 George Bower, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Ethan Blackadder, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 David Havili, 23 Leicester Faingaanuku.
Photo: Masanori Udagawa/Getty Images