Super Rugby

Crusaders open season with victory over Highlanders




The Crusaders beat the Highlanders 13-26 to open their Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign with a win at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin.

The Crusaders continued their stranglehold over the Highlanders with an impressive opening Super Rugby season win on the South Island.

The Christchurch franchise notched four tries to two as they kickstarted the new year. It was an all too familiar story as they scored for tries to two in a comfortable win.

Not even two yellow cards could halt the reigning kings of New Zealand, who defended their opponent’s driving maul expertly while dominating the set-pieces and breakdown.

Codie Taylor had a fantastic game and is one of the best hookers in the game

Taylor was superb. He was involved in everything; scoring a try, setting up Sevu Reece’s score with a wonderful offload.

The 29-year-old hooker won important turnovers and made try-saving tackles while being near flawless with his lineout throwing, and at the heart of a powerful scrum.

The victory sees the Crusaders extending their winning streak over the Highlanders to 10 in the previous 11 Super Rugby games, while also extending their overall winning run to 11 from 12 matches.

A scintillating first half saw both teams share four tries as the defending champions took a four-point lead into the shed.

The visitors raced into an early 14-point after Taylor and Bryn Hall both scored inside the opening quarter. Richie Mo’unga converted both scores.

Scott Robertson’s men dominated the set-pieces as the opposition’s scrum creaked.

Ethan Blackadder’s indiscretion allowed the hosts to get back into the contest, if only for a while

Blackadder’s 23rd-minute yellow card – for toting-up infringements on the Saders’ try-line – saw the hosts hit back.

Shannon Frizell scored from the next attacking series before Connor Garden-Bachop finished off a sublime attack, two minutes before the break.

Super Rugby Aotearoa Round 1, 2021 Video Highlights: Highlanders vs Crusaders, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Mitch Hunt, however, missed both conversions as his side trailed. The first-five did find his range with an early second-half penalty to reduce the deficit to one point, three minutes after the restart.

Roberton’s men hit back, as they always do when Reece dotted down in the corner.

Taylor – again – contributed a sublime offload on the right-hand touchline for the winger. The try increased the lead back to two scores.

Mo’unga, who was somewhat wasteful,  missed the sideline conversion following a long TMO review.

The usually accurate kicker missed a drop-kick and penalty in quick succession, which kept the South Islanders in the contest.

Crusaders give Highlanders chances, but the home team fail to accept the gifts

The Crusaders defended the opposition’s driving maul expertly until the 67th-minute when the Highlanders finally won the mini-battle.

However, the next series of plays saw Sio Tomkinson’s try chalked off for a knock-on several phases prior to him latching onto Josh Ioane’s grubber.

Mo’unga’s mistake went unpunished, and after another warning to skipper Scott Barrett about multiple goal-line infringements, the Crusaders won a turnover.

Taylor, who was superb, held-up the maul, winning his team some respite.

With seven minutes remaining, the Crusaders opted for a driving maul instead of taking a long-range penalty and it worked a treat.

From 10 metres out, the Crusaders forwards bulldozed their way over the whitewash.

It was Brodie McAlister sealing the deal, as well as an impressive opening display by the 11-times Super Rugby champions.

Barrett, after another warning from Mr. O’Keeffe, found himself on the sideline after receiving his tea’s second card of the clash.

The card had no bearing on the outcome as the Landers could secure a losing bonus-point, despite being camped on the opposition’s try-line for several minutes after the hooter.

Once again and without any surprise, the men in red are the team to beat.

Final Score: Highlanders 13 (10) Crusaders 26 (14)


Tries – Frizell, C. Garden-Bachop
Pen – Hunt
Con –
Drop –
Cards –

Tries – Taylor, Hall, Reece, McAlister
Pen –
Con – Mo’unga (3)
Drop –
Cards – Blackadder (Yellow, 23′), S. Barrett (Yellow, 81′)

Match Officials
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Ref 1: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 2: James Doleman
TMO: Brendon Pickerill



15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Connor Garden-Bachop, 13 Ngatungane Punivai, 12 Patelesio Tomkinson, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Jack Regan, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown

Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Bryn Evans, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Hugh Renton


15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Dallas McLeod, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody

Replacements: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 George Bower, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Sione Havili, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Fergus Burke, 23 Chay Fihaki

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