Super Rugby

Reece brace sees Crusaders slay Highlanders




The Crusaders beat the Highlanders 19-34 after another clinical Super Rugby Pacific performance at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin.

Sevu Reece bagged a brace as the Crusaders came out tops in a physical southern New Zealand derby to go top of the Super Rugby standings.

The 25-year-old winger’s double saw the flyer take his tally to 36 Super Rugby tries as the Crusaders made it seven from nine against the Highlanders in recent times.

The majestic Will Jordan and Tamaiti Williams also crossed for Scott Robertson’s superior side. Jordan also provided an assist for Reece’s second score.

Fergus Burke kicked 12 points (two penalties and three conversions) for the 10 times Super Rugby champions.

Substitute Simon Hickey converted Williams’ late five-pointer to seal the bonus-point win.

Sam Gilbert touched down for Tony Browns men, and Mitch Hunt slotted four penalties and a conversion for 14 points.

The Highlanders raced to a 13-nil lead inside a quarter of an hour thanks to a converted Gilbert try and two penalties from Hunt.

But two converted Reece scores put the Crusaders ahead by one on the half hour mark.

Hunt missed a relatively easy penalty between the Reece tries, but he did land a third two minutes before the break.

Burke, however, struck his first penalty to edge the Saders in front after the hooter.

Both kickers traded goals in the third quarter as the visitors led 20-19 after 53 minutes.

Hunt thought he had scored before the hour, but the first-five was short before being held up.

The Highlanders began to put pressure on the Crusaders, but a botched lineout led to Jordan’s sensational try with 14 minutes remaining.

The score broke the home team’s spirit, and the Otago men never recovered.

Burke added the extras to make it a two-point game before Williams settled the contest with the away team’s fourth try.

Highlanders take a surprising 13-point lead in the first quarter of an hour, but Crusaders hit back

Hunt opened with an early penalty before Gilbert finished off a well-worked first-phase attack from a scrum near the touchline.

Gilbert cut inside from his rightwing and took the defenders by surprise after Hunt’s deft, delayed pass flummoxed the backline.

The 23-year-old flyer ghosted through the Crusaders midfield duo of David Havili and Braydon Ennor, and beat the cover defence to score under the posts.

Hunt converted before knocking over another goal as the visitors wracked up penalties; however, the Crusaders struck soon after.

Enter Reece. The Fijian flyer crossed twice in 13 minutes as the Saders overturned the deficit to lead 14-13.

Reece’s first score came after he took quick-tap penalty, which caught the Landers offguard, and darted over the whitewash.

He soon had another, but not after Burke missed a sitter from in front.

A well executed backline move involving Havili, Ennor, and Jordan saw Reece waltz over for his brace. Burke did not miss this time, and the former champs had a lead.

Hunt almost went over in the corner soon after but was tackled out. The two standoffs traded penalties before the half as the Christchurch outfit led by one.

Crusaders move up the gears as Highlanders stall after the break

Brown’s charges would have been happy in the shed, and Hunt’s fourth goal, six minutes after the restart, put the Otago side back in front.

It was, however, to be the last points of the contest as the opposition increased the tempo and snuffed out a blunt home attack.

Robertson made some changes to the front row and immediately regained the lead when Burke slotted the penalty.

Just before the hour mark, Hunt thought he had scored, but the flyhalf was tackled short before being held up. This would be the closest the Dunedin side got to scoring again.

Instead, the Crusaders went into hyperdrive. A mistake at the lineout led to a counter-attack and score, set up by last week’s hat-trick hero Leicester Fainga’anuku

Fainga’anuku’s sublime chicken-wing pass to George Bridge sucked in two defenders before Bridge sent Jordan away under the posts.

The 26-year-old playmaker drew a defender, passed inside to Jordan, who slipped two tackles to score. Burke could not miss.

The red machine began to grind down their hosts. Eventually, the defence cracked.

With three minutes remaining, Williams crashed over from close range to claim the bonus-point and 12th win in 13 Super Rugby away days.

Final Score: Highlanders 19 (16) Crusaders 34 (17)


Tries – Gilbert
Pen – Hunt (4)
Con – Hunt
Drop –
Cards –

Tries – Reece (2), Jordan, Williams
Pen – Burke (2)
Con – Burke (3), Hickey
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 1: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 2: Angus Mabey
TMO: Chris Hart



15 Connor Garden-Bachop, 14 Sam Gilbert, 13 Fetuli Paea, 12 Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 11 Josh Timu, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (captain), 8 Gareth Evans, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ethan de Groot

16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Bryn Evans, 20 Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Hugh Renton


15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 David Havili, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Fergus Burke, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Scott Barrett (captain), 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Oli Jager, 2 Brodie McAlister, 1 Joe Moody

16 Shilo Klein, 17 George Bower, 18 Tamaiti Williams, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Corey Kellow, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 George Bridge


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