Super Rugby: Order restored as Crusaders return to form and topple ladder
Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/news/111677141/-

2019-03-31 01:01:22

The sense of relief was smeared all over Scott Robertson's face in Wellington on Friday night.

It wasn't because the Crusaders' head coach had just overseen his team's first away win against the Hurricanes since 2012, but rather because the red and blacks did what they desperately wanted to do against the Waratahs a week earlier in Sydney.

Their 32-8 towelling of the Hurricanes was precisely the type of performance they wanted to deliver for their fans and region after the Christchurch mosque shootings on March 15.

Robertson admitted his team lost their momentum after rolling to a 4-0 start, before a cancelled fixture against the Highlanders, and 20-12 loss to the Waratahs, threatened to derail their campaign.

There were even suggestions from some quarters that Friday's game against the Hurricanes was a career defining one for Robertson.

Statement made. The Crusaders' emphatic bonus-point scalp shot them five points clear at the top of the ladder, and they will take some catching.

They're at home the next two weeks - against the Brumbies and Highlanders - before their first bye. They then host the Lions and Sharks at their Christchurch fortress, a venue they haven't lost a Super Rugby match at since 2016.

Crusaders pivot Richie Mo'unga, who slotted five of his six shots at goal, again outplayed counterpart Beauden Barrett.

This time, nobody could say Mo'unga was playing behind a Rolls-Royce pack. Not with the Hurricanes taking advantage of the absence of All Blacks props Joe Moody (ankle) and Owen Franks (shoulder) and giving the Crusaders a real tickle up at scrum time.

A ton of credit must go to the Crusaders' stout defence, but the Hurricanes were their own worst enemy.

If Barrett wasn't tossing intercept passes, hooker Ricky Riccitelli was coughing up a ball with the line in sight, or fullback Chase Tiatia was gift-wrapping a try for opposite David Havili.

It was an ugly night, one they can't dwell on given they must now jump on a flight to Dunedin to play the rested Highlanders on Friday night.

Another rotten night at the office and the Hurricanes face the prospect of being surpassed by the surging Blues, who beat the Stormers 24-9 on Saturday night.

Their third straight win, built on a staunch defensive performance, has got some folk in the upper North Island feeling giddy about the embattled franchise.

Heck, there is even talk that they're all of a sudden a legitimate contender. That kind of chat should be put on ice, particularly when the Stormers did all they could to gift the Blues the game.

The South Africans had enough chances to put 50 on the Blues, yet their decision making and fundamental skills were, frankly, worse than anything you could expect to see in the Heartland Championship.

Regardless, the Blues are 3-3 and showing signs of improvement. The fact they held firm after wing Tanielu Tele'a was red-carded for a dangerous tackle on an airborne Dillyn Lleyds in the 69th minute was something they perhaps wouldn't have done so a year ago.

You have to fancy their chances of making it four straight next week, when the inconsistent Waratahs come to Eden Park.

The Waratahs, fresh from ending the Crusaders' 20-match unbeaten run, were shocked by the Sunwolves in Newcastle on Friday night.

Sunwolves wing Semisi Masirewa uncorked his trademark celebration after each of his three tries in the 31-29 win, their first on Australian soil, and one heck of a performance so soon after receiving confirmation they will be booted from the competition from 2021.

Former Highlanders pivot Hayden Parker continued his staggering form off the tee by landing all five attempts at goal. The holder of the Super Rugby record (38 consecutive kicks) has now blasted over 70 of his last 71 attempts.

The Chiefs, written off after departing on their South African and Argentinian tour with an 0-1-4 record, nabbed a crucial 30-27 win over the Jaguares in Buenos Airies on Sunday morning (NZT).

A last-gasp try to reserve halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi with two minutes on the clock sealed their second consecutive win, ensuring their first bye will go down particularly well before hosting the Blues in a fortnight.

The now 4-2 Rebels beat the Brad Thorn-coached Reds 32-12 in Brisbane on Saturday night and are second on the ladder.

WEEK 7 RESULTS

Crusaders 32 (David Havili 2, Will Jordan, Braydon Ennor tries; Richie Mo'unga 3 con, 2 pen) Hurricanes 8 (Ngani Laumape try; Jordie Barrett pen). HT: 17-8.

Sunwolves 31 (Grant Hattingh, Semisi Masirewa 3 tries; Hayden Parker 4 con, pen) Waratahs 29 (Nick Phipps, Cameron Clark, Michael Hooper, Kurtley Beale tries; Beale con, Mack Mason 2 con, pen). HT: 17-15

Blues 24 (Tanielu Tele'a, Otere Black, Rieko Ioane tries; Black pen, 3 cons) Stormers 9 (Jean-Luc du Plessis 3 pens). HT: 10-6.

Rebels 32 (Jack Maddocks 2, Anaru Rangi, Robert Leota tries) Quade Cooper 3 con, 2 pen) Reds 12 (Taniel Tupou try; Bryce Hegarty 2 pen, con). HT: 11-6

Bulls 19 (Jesse Kriel try; Handre Pollard 4 pen, con) Sharks 16 (Daniel du Preez, Andre Esterhuizen tries; Robert du Preez 2 pen). HT: 6-3

Chiefs 30 (Damian McKenzie, Tumua Manu, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi tries; Damian McKenzie 3 con, 3 pen) Jaguares 27 (Joaquin Tuculet, Pablo Matera, Matias Orlando tries; Joaquin Diaz Bonilla 2 con, 2 pen, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias con) HT: 17-6.

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