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Crusaders cruise to victory over Highlanders

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The Crusaders cruised to a 43-17 bonus-point victory over the Highlanders at Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch.

The Crusaders stretched their unbeaten home record to 24 Super Rugby matches and increased their stranglehold on the New Zealand Conference.

Ben Smith, playing in his 150th Super Rugby match for the Highlanders, opened the scoring in the third-minute before Josh Ioane’s boot extended the lead.

The Crusaders reduced the deficit when Braydon Ennor crossed in the 25th-minute.


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The defending champions ran in a further five tries, including a penalty try, as they upped the pace and intensity in the second half.

Josh Ioane scored late, but it was scant consolation for the Otago side

Video Highlights: Crusaders versus Highlanders

Ben Smith shows his class

The Highlanders came out firing when Smith ghosted through the Crusaders. The 150 capped man crossed after 130 seconds.

It was vintage Smith. He took the ball at first receiver and darted between Scott Barrett and Whetukamokamo Douglas.

The 76 Test-capped All Black stepped inside David Havili and was over for a stunning score. Ioane added the conversion and a 12th-minute penalty to put his side into a 10-point lead.

The Crusaders were not their usual selves. They coughed up seven handling errors, seven penalties and turned the ball over numerous times in the opening stanza.

Richie Mo’unga was almost unplayable. He took the ball into contact, on 26 minutes, shrugged off a tackler, getting up before offloading to Havili.

The fullback sped away into the Landers’ 22, drew Smith and skipped a pass to Ennor on the touchline, who raced away to halve the deficit.

It was warning shot fired by the competition’s comeback kings

Scott Robertson’s charges came out and put together a scintillating seven-phase attack which was reminiscent of the nine-phase series that set-up Ennor’s try.

Jack Goodhue found some space in midfield and burst into the opposition’s 22. The ball was quickly recycled to Douglas.

The flanker’s angled run sucked in two defenders, and he offloaded out-the-back door to Havili. Mo’unga added another conversion and penalty to extend the lead to seven.

The defending champions were finding their groove and cutting out the errors from the first half.

Their pack was gaining the ascendency, too. Ten minutes after Havili’s try, the forwards bulldozed their opponent’s and won a penalty try.

Mistakes were creeping into Aaron Mauger’s team

Teihorangi Walden, who had been solid to that point, dropped a simple pass during a foray into Crusaders’ territory. Bryn Hall hacked forward into the Highlanders’ 22.

The scrumhalf had a foot race with Ioane, who was sloppy in gathering the loose ball. Ryan Crotty picked up and made for the corner before being snared.

Mo’unga sent a cross-kick to Ennor, on the sideline. The winger beat the ponderous Tom Franklin, who found himself two on one against two wings.

The lock stood no chance as Sevu Reece capped a fantastic move with his side’s fourth try.

The game was over, by now. Ionae messed up a six-on-three as his team struggled to hang onto the ball or create opportunities.

With 11 minutes remaining, the Crusaders cleaned up some sloppy passing. Reece picked up and broke down the blindside touchline.

He raced into the 22, sucked in Smith and the covering Folau Fakatava and looked over his shoulder.

The winger found support in Mitchell Drummond, who finished with a smile. Mo’unga added the extras. The Saders had racked up 36 unanswered points in 44 minutes.

Fakatava’s cheeky grubber was snapped up by Ioane to score. It was no consolation because the home team was not finished.

Will Jordan’s show-and-go sold Shannon Frizell for a hot-cake, opening up a hole, and nobody was going to stop him racing away to score.

Final Score: Crusaders 43 (7) Highlanders 17 (10)

Scorers

Crusaders
Tries – Ennor, Havili, Penalty try, Reece, Drummond, Jordan
Pen – Mo’unga
Con – Mo’unga (3), Hunt
Drop –
Cards – Funnell (Yellow, 80′)

Highlanders
Tries – B. Smith, J. Ioane
Pen – J. Ioane
Con – J. Ioane (2), Gatland
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Ref 1: Damon Murphy
Assistant Ref 2: Angus Gardner
TMO: Glenn Newman

Teams

Crusaders

15 David Havili, 14 Braydon Ennor, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Sevu Reece, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Joe Moody.

Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Harry Allan, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Will Jordan.

Highlanders

15 Ben Smith (captain), 14 Matt Faddes, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.

Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Jackson Hemopo, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Patelesio Tomkinson.

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