At Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch: Crusaders 35 (Leicester Fainga’anuku try 6min Braydon Ennor try 17min, Codie Taylor try 42min, Fainga’anuku try 58min, Christian Lio-Willie try 78min; Richie Mo’unga 5 con) Brumbies 17 (Ryan Lonergan try 47min, Corey Toole try 70min; Lonergan pen, 2 con). HT: 21-3
A memorable week for Scott Robertson just got the icing on the cake.
The Crusaders beat the Brumbies 35-17 in Christchurch on Friday night, capping what’s been a whirlwind week for the All Blacks coach in waiting.
Beating the previously unbeaten Brumbies wasn’t a bad way to hone back in on his job at hand with the Crusaders, albeit an under strength side from Australia’s capital, one lacking a bunch of rested Wallabies.
But while the Brumbies were without the likes of Nic White, Pete Samu, James Slipper and Rob Valetini, the battered Crusaders had more than a dozen players unavailable through injury.
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Blockbusting wing Leicester Fainga’anuku, fresh from scoring three tries against the Blues, was again a one-man wrecking ball – leaving defenders in his wake en route to a brace of tries.
The Crusaders outscored the Brumbies five tries to two, led for all but a few minutes early in the match, and were never seriously threatened by the visitors.
It had been 23 years since the Brumbies’ last win in the Garden City, all the way back in 2000, when Robertson was running around as a rugged loose forward for the red and blacks.
This time, Robertson watched the Crusaders’ extend their winning streak over the Canberra-based side to 12 matches from the coaching box.
Having received a more vocal ovation than usual when he made his way up the south stand and to his coaching position, he’ll be mostly happy to improve to 3-2 on the year, particularly after a late Christian Lio-Willie try ensured they bagged a bonus point.
That said, this was far from vintage Crusaders – there were too many mistakes for that, many of them brought on by a lack of patience.
When Richie Mo’unga is dropping the ball cold, as he did three times, including once inside the 22, you know they’re not operating at their fluent best.
Perhaps the continued absence of so many key players is to blame, but they were clunky on a night there was no excuse for handling errors.
They also lacked patience, too often pushing low-percentage passes. They’ll also want the decision to take a quick tap – Tom Christie got held up – when the Brumbies were under a penalty warning and lighting a match under their already dominant scrum from 5m out was the wiser option.
But there was also plenty to like, most notably their bruising and never-say-die defence, which was typically top-notch inside their own 22.
They scored a few beaut tries, too, none better than Braydon Ennor’s first half effort, when he got on the end of a Pepesana Patafilo chip kick.
Fainga’anuku taking a short ball 25 metres out and making a mockery of three would-be Brumbies tackler also went down a treat amongst punters as he put the Crusaders on the board in the sixth minute.
His second wasn’t from the same range, but the way he bounced off Brumbies and smashed his way over the line was just as impressive
It killed off the sliver of hope the Brumbies might have had, after captain Ryan Lonergan finished off a sustained passage on attack and finally got over for his team’s first in the 47th minute.
The big moment
Codie Taylor’s try after the halftime hooter, via the trusty old lineout drive. Moments after the Crusaders had stopped the Brumbies’ maul at the other end, it gave the hosts a 21-3 halftime lead. The red and blacks don’t lose from there.
7/10. If only both teams were at full strength. Nevertheless, there was enough evidence to think these sides could well meet again in the playoffs.
Fainga’anuku – a one-man wrecking ball. He scored two tries and notched 70 violent running metres with ball in hand.
The big picture
There’s no rest for the dinged up Crusaders, not until they get past the Reds (away) and Moana Pasifika (home). They can then look forward to reinforcements arriving after their bye week. Fresh off their first loss, the Brumbies are back home to host the Waratahs.