Sevu Reece was at the heart of a brutal physical performance in the Crusaders’ 36-10 win over the Lions in Christchurch on Friday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
Warren Whiteley failed a late fitness test and was forced to withdraw from the game in Christchurch. As a result, the Lions went into their toughest game of the season without their inspirational leader and premier No 8.
The Lions showed more guts than guile in what was a bruising encounter with the reigning champions. From the outset, they competed fiercely at the breakdown and shot off the line in an attempt to stifle the Crusaders attack.
Kwagga Smith was prominent in the early stages, winning some crucial turnovers for his side. Unfortunately, Smith will be remembered for his failed tackle attempt on Reece at the end of the first half.
Reece hammered into the diminutive No 8 and Smith flew back through the air in spectacular fashion. The cover defence failed to contain Reece thereafter, and the winger drove over to score and ensure that the Crusaders went to the break with a 17-3 lead.
Sevu Reece activated BEAST MODE sending Kwagga Smith flying through the air on his way to scoring a fantastic try for the Crusaders against the Lions in their #SuperRugby clash ?? pic.twitter.com/Uw55bwivoi
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) April 26, 2019
The Crusaders came into this game with the best attacking record in the tournament. The Lions, however, were ranked among the worst teams for tackle efficiency.
They did enough to disrupt the Crusaders and prevent a first-half blowout. That said, the hosts still managed to cross the line twice during that period and take a 14-point lead into the shed.
The Crusaders were always going to be the stronger side in the second stanza. Over the past few seasons, they’ve made a habit out of piling on the points in the latter stages.
The Lions – who were perhaps feeling the physical and mental effects after a draining fortnight in New Zealand – were always likely to struggle in this situation.
The visitors had their moments. The Lions troubled the much-vaunted Crusaders scrum, and managed to stop the red and black maul on several occasions.
Where they really battled, however, was at the collisions. Handling and kicking errors also compromised their quest to build momentum and pressure that Crusaders defence.
Reece crashed over for his second try midway through the second period as the Crusaders started to hit their stride. The hosts finished the contest with five tries and ultimately a comfortable bonus-point victory.
Crusaders – Tries: Braydon Ennor, Sevu Reece (2), George Bridge (2). Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (4). Penalty: Mo’unga.
Lions – Try: Ruan Combrinck. Conversion: Elton Jantjies. Penalty: Jantjies.
Crusaders – 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Quinten Strange, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Harry Allan, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Michael Dunshea, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Eretara Enarai, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Ngane Punivai.
Lions – 15 Ruan Combrinck, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Elton Jantjies, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Kwagga Smith (c), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Carlü Sadie, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Sti Sithole.
Subs: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Nathan McBeth, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Franco Naude, 23 Tyrone Green.
Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images