Crusaders sink Hurricanes to stay unbeaten
The Crusaders continued their perfect start to the Super season on Saturday, beating the Hurricanes 20-12 in Christchurch.
With this being a contest between the tabletopping Crusaders and the defending champions there was of course plenty of hype in the build-up to this fixture.
The opening half was a cagey affair, however, and three penalties apiece to Richie Mo'unga and Jordie Barrett meant the teams were deadlocked at 9-9 at half-time.
The Crusaders' forwards deserve plenty of credit as they laid the platform for this win especially during the second half and they eventually outscored their visitors by a try to none.
The win was the Crusaders' 11th successive one of the season and consolidates their position at the top of the New Zealand Conference table. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, are still third - eight points adrift - although they have played one game less than the seven-time champions.
The opening exchanges were evenly balanced and we had to wait until the 11th minute for the opening points when Mo'unga slotted a penalty after Brad Shields infringed at the breakdown.
Three minutes later, the Crusaders strayed offside on defence and Jordie Barrett opened the Hurricanes' account from the kicking tee and he added his second penalty midway through the half after Jordan Taufua was blown up for illegal play at a ruck.
That lead did not last long, however, as Mo'unga levelled the score with his second penalty two minutes later and he put his side back in front after the Crusaders pack destroyed their counterparts at a scrum on the half-hour mark.
The home side were gradually taking control of proceedings and in the 34th minute they came close to scoring the opening try when Ryan Crotty caught the flat-lying Hurricanes defence by surprise with an inch perfect cross-field kick but Seta Tamanivalu failed to hang onto the ball while crossing the whitewash.
Shortly before half-time, Taufua was penalised again and the resulting penalty from Barrett meant the game was evenly poised as the sides changed sides at the interval.
The Crusaders came out firing after the break and were rewarded with the game's only try from a lineout drive in the 50th minute.
The home side intially launched the maul from the middle of the lineout - 10 metres from the Hurricanes' try-line - but cleverly changed the contact point to the front of the set-piece and built momentum with a powerful drive before Matt Todd barged over the whitewash.
Mo'unga failed to convert but made up for that miss when he landed his fourth penalty in the 58th minute. With the hosts leading 17-9, the Hurricanes were chasing the game although another Barrett penalty narrowed the gap on the hour-mark.
The final quarter was an attritional affair but although the Hurricanes tried gallantly to regain the lead, they committed too many unforced errors and Mo'unga sealed the Crusaders' win with a 73rd minute penalty.
Pens: Mo'unga 5
Pens: J Barrett 4
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 (c), 6 Pete Samu, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Manasa Mataele
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara (c), 8 Brad Shields, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Vaea Fifita, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Jeffery To’omaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Chris Eves
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Ben May, 18 Loni Uhila, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Toa Halafihi, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Otere Black, 23 Wes Goosen
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Mike Fraser, Cam Stone
TMO: Glenn Newman