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Crusaders cruise to comfortable win over lowly Highlanders

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The Crusaders cruised to a comfortable 33-13 win over the Highlanders at a warm and windy Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch.

The Crusaders, playing their first Super Rugby match at home this season, strolled to a comfortable five-try bonus-point victory in this southern New Zealand derby in front a big crowd at home.

It was a routine win for Scott Robertson’s side, his side’s seventh in eight in this fixture, including four on the bounce against the lowly Highlanders.

The previous three victories were by 20 points or more, and so the dismal trend continued for Aaron Mauger’s side.

The 10-times champions continue their dominance at home and are now 33 games unbeaten in Christchurch no matter what the name of the stadium.

Despite sharing a try apiece and only having 43 per cent possession after the break, making 11 handling errors to five, never looked like doing anything but winning, while never getting out of second gear.

Josh Iaone’s third-minute penalty was as good as it got in the first stanza for the struggling Dunedin side, who remain rooted to the bottom of the New Zealand Conference.

Codie Taylor, Tom Christie, Braydon Ennor and George Bridge all crossed for the all-conquering Crusaders, who led 26-8 at the break.

Michael Collins dotted down for the Highlanders’ 23rd-minute score.

Highlanders show fight after the interval

Shannon Frizell spent 10 minutes in the bin for a dangerous tackle Ennor, early in the second half.

The Highlanders survived with 14 men, but only just because the Crusaders should have scored a couple of tries, however, some poor decision making and execution let the visitors off the hook.

It was, instead, the Highlanders who scored the first points of the second stanza.

Super Rugby Video Highlights: Crusaders versus Highlanders, Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch

Jona Nareki finished off a slick backline move after a sustained attack inside the home team’s 22 with 17 minutes remaining.

But Sione Havili’s 74th-minute try reclaimed the bonus-point for the defending champions, who continue to conquer all-comers in Christchurch.

The game was over before halftime as Crusaders blow away Highlanders with four tries

Ioane’s early penalty after a prolonged attack inside the opposition’s 22 after some good work by Aaron Smith, got the visitors on the board.

The hosts, doing what they do best, scored twice in quick succession after keeping out the opposition.

Classic Crusaders. It could have been a 14-point deficit, instead, it turned into a 12-3 lead.

Another Highlanders attack came to nought, conceding a penalty inside their opponent’s 22.

Liam Coltman, who got over the ball, winning a penalty at the ruck. The hosts cleared to halfway and mounted a series of attacks.

Taylor went close but lost possession on the Otago side’s try-line. A series of aerial battles took place, Smith kicked the ball away three times, the opposition ran the ball back three times then scored.

In the 14th-minute, Bridge and Taylor combined after the winger’s good offload in the tackle of Marino Mikaele-Tu’u. The hooker gave his side a lead they would not surrender.

Offloading in the tackle is something the defending champions have mastered and they employ the skill to devastating effect.

David Havili added the extras.

It was the home team who enjoyed some time in attack, going through the phases to set-up their second five-pointer.

Christie scored in the corner after Jack Goodhue, who was magnificent in defence and devastating in attack, opened a lane for up the loose-forward.

Goodhue stood-up three defenders with a jinking run.

The playmaker drew two defenders, more importantly, the last outside defender before sending Christie away down the touchline to score at the end of the first quarter.

Highlanders hit back through Collins, but it was a phyric victory

Rob Tompson, who caused all manner of problems in midfield. His run busting through a few tackles was the conduit for his team’s attacks.

The 28-year-old’s strong running took his side into the 22. The attack broke down, but possession was regained and another attack – finally – finished.

Collins combined with Nareki and scored in the corner under pressure from Sevu Reece. The fullback slipped Reece’s weak tackle, and he scored in the corner.

Ioane, like Havili previously, missed from the touchline, but the gap was only four points.

Crusaders up the tempo and pull away with two more scores before the break

It did not take long for the home team to reply.

Three minutes after Collins’ try, Havili, dangerous from deep, slipped Ioane’s tackle and increased his side’s advantage.

Scrumhalf Bryn Hall poked his head around a ruck near the opposition’s goal-line, saw Ennor’s angled run from the side of the ruck, and popped a pass to send the wing away through a gap to score under the posts.

Hall converted while David Havili received attention from the medics.

The visitors were reeling; wave after wave of attacks repelled but only for so long. The dam wall eventually burst, six minutes later.

Bridge, involved again, scooped up a lost ball from Collins. Hall took a quick-tap penalty, starting the attack that led to the five-pointer.

The halfback kicked another conversion as the Crusaders took an 18-point lead into the shed.

Highlanders dominate the scrappy second period but share a try apiece as Crusaders take their foot off the gas

With such a substantial lead, Robertson’s men seemed to be conserving energy, looking to up the tempo, intermittently.

Several sustained periods of intense pressure came to nothing as the Crusaders’ handling errors mounted.

The Highlanders had the better of two-thirds of the territory and possession.

They could not, however, turn pressure into points through a combination of dogged defence from their opponents and ill-discipline.

Shannon Frizell, who was a colossus, carrying with conviction and in the wars throughout the clash, gave away a careless penalty when he tip-tackled Ennor at a ruck.

Frizell spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin after a TMO referral deemed his tackle, dangerous.

Both teams struggle to finish opportunities as careless errors mounted

The Crusaders did not score, despite the one-man advantage; instead, it was the visitors who dominated play.

Robertson’s men did have two good chances, however, but they squandered them with poor handling and passing.

His side stopped a powerful rolling maul, their first real threat from the set-piece by the ‘Landers of the night.

Mauger’s men mounted a six-phases before Mitch Hunt’s grubber gave away the ball. The hosts attempted a deep counter-attack but also turned over possession.

The visitors went wide to Nareki after a slick backline move between Hunt and Ioane, in the 63rd-minute.

With their foot of the gas for most of the half, the Crusaders increased the tempo and searched for the lost bonus-point, which was chalked off after Nareki’s try made it four scores to two.

Hall’s second conversion, six minutes before halftime, was the last scoring play for the home team, who did not register any second-half points until six minutes from time.

Sione Havili powered over from a smart lineout move, driving through Daniel Lienert-Brown for the bonus-point try.

Mitchell Drummond’s conversion extended the lead to 20 points, the fourth such defeat or more in a row for the Crusaders versus the Highlanders.

Ouch.

Final Score: Crusaders 33 (26) Highlanders 13 (8)

Scorers

Crusaders
Tries – Taylor, Christie, Ennor, Bridge, S. Havili
Pen –
Con – D. Havili, Hall (2), Drummond
Drop –
Cards –

Highlanders
Tries – Collins, Nareki
Pen – J. Ioane
Con –
Drop –
Cards – Frizell (Yellow, 46′)

Match Officials
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 1:
Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 2:
 James Doleman
TMO:
 Chris Hart

Teams

Crusaders

Head Coach: Scott Robertson

15 David Havili (captain), 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Tom Sanders, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Cullen Grace, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.

Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Isi Tuungafasi, 18 George Bower, 19 Ethan Roots (debut), 20 Sione Havili, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Leicester Faingaanuku.

Highlanders

Head Coach: Aaron Mauger

15 Michael Collins, 14 Kirisi Kuridrani, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Josh Ioane, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 7 James Lentjes (captain), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Jesse Parete, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone.

Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Conan O’Donnell, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Teihorangi Walden, 23 Josh McKay.

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