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Good Friday for Crusaders as they crush Sunwolves in Christchurch

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The Crusaders thrashed the Sunwolves 50-3 at AMI Stadium in Christchurch, continuing their unbeaten run with a seventh consecutive victory of this campaign.

Fijian winger Manasa Mataele starred for the Kiwis, scoring a nine-minute first-half hat-trick as the Crusaders ran rampant on home soil.

Man of the match Wyatt Crocket became the most capped Super Rugby player of all time. He passed fellow All Black Keven Mealamu’s previous record with his 176th appearance.

The loosehead prop made his debut back in 2006 and his combined games equalled the Sunwolves’ match-day 23’s tally.

Kieran Read returned for his first match of the 2017 season after sitting out with a wrist injury. The No 8 was superb, scoring the game’s opening try.

On 13 minutes the Crusaders set up a rolling maul from a lineout. The initial drive was halted but the Crusaders’ forwards peeled left, recycled quickly, for Read to get over.

The visitors started well and had managed to repel their illustrious opponents during the first quarter but the floodgates opened.

Earlier in the week, Cyclone Cook had hit New Zealand, so the waterlogged pitch was heavy underfoot and the ball slippery.

However, the seven-time champions soon found their mojo. On 24 minutes Ben Funnell scored with the help of Luke Whitelock’s powerful leg drive.

Richie Mo’unga added the conversion and the hosts led 14-0.

Seta Tamanivalu was yellow-carded in the first half for a dangerous tackle on Kotaro Matsushima after contesting a high ball.

Yu Tamura kicked a penalty to reduce the deficit; it was the only points of the evening for the Sunwolves.

Two minutes later the 20-year-old scored his first try. From the breakdown, the ball was shifted left by scrumhalf Mitchell Drummond.

Todd received the pass, drew the defender and popped to Pete Samu, who was in support on his outside.

As Samu was going to ground, he made an outrageous offload to Mataele, who stepped Matsushima and ran away unchallenged.

Despite the extra man, the visitors were being pulled all over the park. Their kicking game was not great, allowing the home team to counter-attack from deep.

Mataele scored his second of the night after some deft handling inside the Japanese side’s 22.

Drummond switched play to Mo’unga, the standoff sent a quick pass to Jack Goodhue, who passed to Mataele on the sideline, and just like that, it was 24-3.

The young Fijian was at it again. Goodhue took a pass from Funnell, straightened, cut inside Teruya Goto, drew the fullback and put the Fijian away for his hat-trick.

Mo’unga missed the conversion but the hosts went into the break with a 26-point lead.

Samu scored next; taking the final pass from the omnipresent Funnell to score under the posts.

The hooker had drawn a defender and passed to Samu, sprinting between Goto and Shunsuke Nunomaki, for the try.

Read was putting in a good shift on his return to the team. The No 8 carried with conviction and was everywhere.

The Crusaders’ forwards were proficient in the set pieces, winning two of the Sunwolves’ five scrums and five of their 15 lineout throws.

They also dominated the breakdown, winning 107 rucks to the Sunwolves’ 51 as they outclassed their opponents.

On 52 minutes Mo’unga had a hand in George Bridge’s try. The first five eighth’s cross kick was collected on the full by Bridge, on the far side of the field.

The wing beat Jamie-Jerry Taulagi and Takaaki Nakazuru before diving over the whitewash.

Marty McKenzie took over the kicking duties, slotting a difficult touchline conversion to extend the lead.

Six minutes later and from a five-metre scrum, Drummond made a break and was tackled short of the goal line.

Whetu Douglas raced to the ruck, picked up the ball and barged over for his team’s eighth try. McKenzie’s second conversion pushed the score past the half-century.

The tackle count for the tourists was increasing. going into the final 20 minutes, they had made 115 to the Crusaders’ 46.

The game became scrappier as the teams emptied their benches and somehow, the scores stayed the same.

Scott Robertson’s men saw out the rest of the match and claimed the bonus-point, without any dramas.

Final score: Crusaders 50 (29) Sunwolves 3 (3)

Scorers

Crusaders
Tries – Read, Funnell, Mataela (3), Samu, Bridge, Douglas
Pen –
Con – Mo’unga (3), McKenzie (2)
Drop –
Cards – Seta Tamanivalu (Yellow, 26th minute)

Sunwolves
Tries –
Pen – Tamura
Con –
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant Ref 1: Will Houston
Assistant Ref 2: Cam Stone
TMO: Glenn Newman

Teams

Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Manasa Mataele, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Pete Samu, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Luke Romano, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.

Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Whetu Douglas, 21 Leon Fukofuka, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 George Bridge.

Sunwolves: 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Takaaki Nakazuru, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Teruya Goto, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, 7 Shunsuke Nunomaki, 6 Edward Quirk, 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Takeshi Kizu, 1 Keita Inagaki.

Replacements: 16 Yusuke Niwai, 17 Koki Yamamoto, 18 Heiichiro Ito, 19 Shinya Makabe, 20 Yuhimaru Mimura, 21 Yuki Yatomi, 22 William Tupou, 23 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.

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