The Crusaders thrashed the Force 45-17, in a seven-try bonus-point victory at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
This was as comfortable a win as any for the New Zealanders, scoring four first-half tries through Digby Ioane, Matt Todd, Scott Barrett and Man-of-the-Match Luke Romano.
The hosts scored four first-half tries as they raced to a 28-17 lead. A scrappy second half saw two yellow cards and many scrum issues but, the ‘Saders scored three more tries to ease to a fifth win in a row.
Romano was awarded the Man-of-the-Match for a superb effort in the boiler-room as the hosts kept the visitors scoreless in the second-half to run away 28-point winners.
The Western Force kept up with the scoring rate until the half-hour mark but 14-10 soon became 28-10 before Chance Peni’s try on the hooter saw the visitors claw back the deficit, to trail by 11 at the break.
Codie Taylor, David Havili and Ben Funnell continued the rout in the second period as the Perth team had no answer to the Kiwi onslaught, who seemed to score at will.
The match started badly for the visitors when Ioane opened the scoring in the third minute, scoring under the posts after receiving the ball from Mitchell Drummond.
Jono Lance missed touch with a kick, allowing the Crusaders a chance to counter attack from deep, an invitation that no New Zealand team will likely turn down.
Mitchell made a break on the edge of the ruck, beating a front row forward, drew Luke Morahan and sent the wing over for the score. Mitchell Hunt made it 7-0.
Lance kicked a penalty moments later but, the Crusaders crossed the whitewash again when Todd powered over the line. Hunt’s second conversion extended the early lead to 11 points inside the opening quarter.
Todd soon undid his previous good work by throwing an intercept inside his own half which the Force took advantage.
Alex Newsome collected the way-wood pass from the lock, to dot down under the posts, against the run of play. The good times did not last.
Three minutes after the Force try, Barrett barged over for his own from close range after the Crusaders set up a driving maul, five metres from the visitors’ goal-line.
The Force were the architects of their down for Romano’s try when a simple clearance was botched on their goal-line, allowing the lock to flop on a loose ball, deemed out of the ruck by referee Rohan Hoffmann.
Peni scored on the stroke of half-time to keep the Force within range at 28-17 but that would prove to be the end of the visitors’ troubling the scoreboard.
The second period was evenly matched but on 50 minutes Taylor, collecting the ball from skipper Sam Whitelock from the line-out, drove over.
The hooker deserved his try after making 15 tackles up to that point in the game and, part of an all All Black front row that was dominating their opponents.
Hunt missed from wide but the game was all but over at 33-17.
The game descended into farce. During a period of seven minutes, the scrum was reset half a dozen times, Tim Perry sent to the bin and, then following the Crusaders going down a man in the forwards, the hosts proceeded to win a penalty in the very next set piece to release the pressure.
If the game was already out of reach, it was now over. The Force wilted under the sustained waves of pressure from the home team.
The Crusaders scored three tries in the final seven minutes to continue their unbeaten start to the 2017 campaign, laying down a marker for the chasing pack.
The final score is Crusaders 45 (28) Force 17 (17)
Tries – Ioane, Todd, Barrett, Romano, Taylor, Havili, Funnell
Con – Hunt (4), McKenzie
Cards – Yellow (Perry, 60th minute)
Tries – Newsome, Peni
Pen – Lance
Con – Lance (2)
Cards – Yellow (Dunshea, 71st minute)
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann
Assistant Ref 1: Richard Kelly
Assistant Ref 2: Angus Mabey
TMO: Shane McDermott
15 David Havili, 14 Digby Ioane, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Ryan Crotty (vc), 11 George Bridge, 10 Mitchell Hunt, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Scott Barrett, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks,2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Mitchell Dunshea, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Manasa Mataele.
15 Luke Morahan, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Chance Peni, 10 Jono Lance (captain), 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Richard Hardwick, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Isi Naisarani, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Richie Arnold*, 20 Matt Hodgson, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Ian Prior, 23 Robbie Coleman.
*Denotes possible Super Rugby Debut
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