The Crusaders strengthened their position at the top of the overall standings with a resounding 55-10 bonus-point win over the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The New Zealanders had to overcome two first-half yellow cards, but ultimately their interminable ball-in-hand approach was far too much to handle for the outclassed Rebels, who conceded 42 unanswered points in the second half.
By bagging the full five log points, the Crusaders now move – at least temporarily – seven points clear of the Lions at the top of the combined log.
After the opening quarter of proceedings against the Rebels, the Crusaders had made 188m to 18m, completed 50 carries to seven and beaten 12 defenders to one. With the visitors also enjoying as much as 85% of possession, the Rebels were forced to make 61 tackles to just five.
Despite this relentless attack from the Crusaders during those early exchanges, they only enjoyed a 10-3 lead at the quarter-hour mark, with Seta Tamanivalu and Andrew Makalio each dotting down for a try.
The Saders would certainly have felt that they should have driven this early dominance home, but instead, the reigning Super Rugby champs saw the Rebels draw the scores level in the 33rd minute when Reece Hodge scored an opportunistic try to make up for an earlier yellow card.
To add to the frustration of the Saders, David Havili became the second player to be sent to the sin bin when he followed in the footsteps of Matt Todd, while Scott Barrett botched a try-scoring opportunity when he knocked the ball on over the line.
However, the Crusaders did make a significant statement just before the break when a monstrous scrum won them a penalty, which was duly knocked over by Richie Mo’unga.
Soon after the restart, the Crusaders won another scrum penalty and worked their way back into the opposition half, before Tamanivalu eventually set up Makalio for his second try.
The Saders continued to apply relentless pressure, and when Jack Goodhue dived over to score in the 52nd minute, the game was as good as won.
From there, the Crusaders continued to pile on the punishment as Pete Samu and Bryn Hall went over to score as the Rebels’ resolve began to fade, while Wyatt Crockett and Manasa Mataele added a couple more before the final whistle to ensure their side surpassed the 50-point mark.
Rebels – Tries: Reece Hodge. Conversions: Jack Debreczeni. Penalties: Debreczeni.
Crusaders – Tries: Seta Tamanivalu, Andrew Makalio (2), Jack Goodhue, Pete Samu, Bryn Hall, Wyatt Crockett, Manasa Mataele. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (2), Mitch Hunt (4). Penalty: Mo’unga.
Rebels – 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Will Genia, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Geoff Parling, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Fereti Sa’aga.
Subs: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Tom English, 23 Semisi Tupou.
Crusaders – 15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Pete Samu, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Harry Allan, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Mitchell Dunshea, 20 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Mitch Hunt, 23 Manasa Mataele.
Photo: Mike Owen/Getty Images