Super Rugby

Game of two halves: Crusaders edge Highlanders




Crusaders edge Highlanders 17-14 in an intriguing Super Rugby Pacific New Zealand derby at Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch.

The Crusaders held off the Highlanders in the ultimate “game of two halves” to claim the southern derby spoils in the Garden City.

The Crusaders fought back from two seven-point deficits before running out victors in a typically defiant display at home.

The two teams notched 31 first-half points thanks to four goals and a penalty in a seesawing 42 minutes that saw the lead change hands three times.

However, the second stanza was a drab affair, chock-full of mistakes, ending scoreless.

Shilo Klein’s late red card did not cost his team as the reigning Super Rugby Aotearoa champions, once again, saw off the Otago franchise.

This victory is Scott Robertson’s side’s ninth in the previous 10 Super Rugby matches in this fixture.

Moreover, this is the Highlanders’ seventh consecutive Super Rugby loss in a row.

The Crusaders took a slender 17-14 lead into the shed after the sides shared two tries apiece

Andrew Makalio and Scott Gregory’s converted tries for the Highlanders to put the visitors ahead twice.

But Fletcher Newell’s converted score and Richie Mo’unga’s 26th-minute penalty kept the Saders in the hunt.

The All Blacks first five-eighth kicked a penalty and two conversions for a low, but important seven points.

Mitch Hunt, on the other hand, landed two conversions (4 pts) and set up a try, although he missed a crucial penalty, as well as kicking a penalty out over the in-goal late in the game that proved costly.

Leicester Fainga’anuku’s 31st-minute try edged his side in front, Mo’unga added the extras.

David Havili, who set up both Crusaders’ tries, missed a long-range penalty from 55 metres out after the hooter, but the home team led by three.

After the restart, Aaron Smith opted not to kick to the corner, which served his team well in the first half.

Unlike the first stanza, he instead asked Hunt to take a shot; however, the first-five’s penalty shaved the righthand post.

Hunt missed a shot at goal in the third quarter, which kept the scores unmoved until the final moments.

On 77 minutes, Shilo Klein saw red for a dangerous tackle to the head of Ethan de Groot.

Tony Brown’s men could not take advantage as the 10-time Super Rugby champions held out for the win.

Highlanders scored two converted tries in an impressive first quarter, but Crusaders overhaul the deficit to lead at the break

Hunt kicked to the corner instead of taking the points, and it worked a treat.

Makalio then powered over in the corner from the lineout move, which involved a one-two with Shannon Frizell, to give his side the early lead.

The Crusaders hit back immediately from an attacking lineout of their own when Mitchell Drummond set up Newell.

The Landers’ forwards halted the Saders’ driving maul, but several phases later Havili gathered his own chip-kick to set up some quick ball for Drummond.

The 28-year-old halfback saw Newell’s well-timed angled run, and played the charging prop, who carried Gregory over the line. Mo’unga levelled.

Yet again, Smith did not opt for the points when offered; instead, he opted for the corner which led to an attacking scrum.

From the set-piece, Brown’s men went in front again. The Highlanders spread the ball wide right from the scrum before switching to the left.

A deft pass from Hunt to Gregory, who held his line, opened space for the centre before he darted through the space to score from close range.

Hunt, on 20 minutes, added the extras to make it 14-7 to the visitors.

The Crusaders’ pack began to dominate the scrums, leading to several penalties to set up their next score.

Mo’unga pulled three back before Havili combined with his midfield partner to give his side the go-ahead try.

Fainga’anuku’s 12th try of the season came after some good defending by the Highlanders’ forwards at the driving maul.

The ball got shifted wide to Havili, who played the burly centre, and ran over Sean Withy to put Robertson’s team ahead.

Mo’unga slotted the conversion – which bizarrely would be the last points of the game.

Havili missed on the stroke of halftime, but it did not matter as the Crusaders won the southern derby.

A low-scoring second stanza was hindered by handling errors and mistakes from both teams, who could not score

Hunt missed a 49th-minute penalty in what would be a scrappy second half.

It was the visitors who had all the possession (63%) and territory (69%) in the second period yet could not score.

The Otago men had several opportunities inside the Canterbury franchise’s 22.

They squandered through stolen lineouts, lost scrums, and on 68 minutes, a terrible error by Hunt, who kicked a chip-shot for the corner flag over the in-goal.

Linebreaks from inside the Dunedin men’s half saw Frizell and Folau Fakatava, from another stolen lineout, came to nothing because of knock-ons.

With three minutes remaining Klein was sent off.

The Landers botched their last chance with another mistake at the lineout.

Manaaki Selby-Rickit got isolated after diving on a loose ball from the messy set piece. Ethan Blackadder won the penalty at the ruck.

Despite winning the resulting Saders’ lineout, the game was up.

The hosts will be relieved, visitors will feel this one got away.

Final Score: Crusaders 17 (17) Highlanders 14 (14)


Tries – Newell, Fainga’anuku
Pen – Mo’unga
Con – Mo’unga (2)
Drop –
Cards – Klein (Red, 77′)

Tries – Makalio, Gregory
Pen –
Con – Hunt (2)
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Ref 1: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 2: Stu Curran
TMO: Shane McDermott


Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 12 David Havili, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Fletcher Newell, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.

Replacements: 16 Shilo Klein, 17 George Bower, 18 Tamaiti Williams, 19 Zach Gallagher, 20 Pablo Matera, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Fergus Burke, 23 Braydon Ennor.

Highlanders: 15 Connor Garden-Bachop, 14 Sam Gilbert, 13 Fetuli Paea, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Mosese Dawai, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (captain), 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 7 Sean Withy, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.

Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ethan de Groot, 18 Saula Mau, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Denny Solomona.

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