Goodhue, Mo’unga and Barrett shine in wet
Hurricanes made to look like a wet blanket in difficult conditions.
A dozen takeaways from the Crusaders’ win over the Hurricanes.
One. Does the win mean that Crusaders are a lock for the Super title? No, but it certainly boosts their chances. The competition is hugely weighted to favour Australian and South African sides, so to finish top of the New Zealand table is a massive step towards play-off games at home.
Two. As it was in the past, as it is now, as it will be forever, the key combination in a rugby team is between the No 8, halfback, and first-five. At No 8 for the Crusaders Heiden Bedwell- Curtis, usually on the side of the scrum, got more commanding as the game went on and his try off a scrum in the second half was a classic of its kind. T J Perenara is a terrific halfback but he was erratic at times on Friday night, while Bryn Hall had his best game in what has been a very good season for him. Which leads to the next point.
Three. Richie Mo’unga is ready for the big show. Beauden Barrett is a magnificent rugby player but he was outplayed in Christchurch. Yes, it’s true that Mo’unga had the benefit of a dominant forward pack, and better service from his halfback, but nobody was there to help when he nervelessly carved off 40 and 50 metres with clearing kicks from inside his own 22 or steered the Crusaders down the field with pinpoint touch finders from penalties. Barrett will, and should, still be first choice for the All Blacks, and because of the positional options he gives, Damian McKenzie may beat Mo’unga to the test reserves bench but, if injury means there’s a need for a new starting 10, Mo’unga is set to go.
Four. We all know it can rain in Wellington, so why the Canes were tactically naive enough to play as if it wasn’t a freezing cold, wet night in Christchurch, but a balmy late summer’s day, is a mystery for the ages.
Five. In Ardie Savea and Ngani Laumape, the Canes have two brutally effective bulldozers in rugby boots. Why weren’t they being used over and over again close to the breakdowns?
Six. ‘‘You win games through the strength on your bench’’ has become a modern mantra, which, in the case of the Crusaders should probably be extended to ‘‘through the strength in your whole squad’’. Without three All Black props, All Black captains Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read and new All Black squad member, No.8 Jordan Taufua, to say the team’s depth was being tested is like saying the Chicago preacher at the royal wedding was mildly animated. But as just one example of how squad members stepped up, Ethan Blackadder, playing just his second Super game, looked born to the level.
Seven. When his team needed it the most, Scott Barrett had his best game for the Crusaders, dynamic in everything he did.
Eight. Aussie referee Angus Gardner was an equal opportunities blunderer. Take two classic examples, one for each side, of judicial weirdness. Twenty-nine minutes into the first half Michael Ala’alatoa tackles Ricky Riccitelli and his arm slips off Riccitelli’s shoulder. Ala’alatoa’s arm misses the head completely. An open hand swishes gently over Riccitelli’s face. Ala’alatoa is penalised for a head shot. Then, six minutes later, David Havili loses the ball forward and George Bridge, in an offside position grabs it. It’s 100 per cent a penalty to the Canes. But in a replay of the refereeing shocker that almost certainly cost the All Blacks victory in last year’s series with the Lions, Gardner only plays the knock-on.
Nine. Jack Goodhue. Like Mo’unga, another ready for the big show. Unlike Mo’unga he may be a starter in the June tests JOHN DAVIDSON/PHOTOSPORT with France. Strong, skilled, and, best of all, smart.
Ten. Please may Ryan Crotty known to all as a decent, good natured man, have the best, most caring medical advice for his recovery from a scarily long string of concussions.
Eleven. Judicial hearings got weird during the week. If Owen Franks tried to say sorry to James Parsons, should that have counted towards a discount in his sentence or not? There was a suggestion no southern hemisphere players are accountable for foul play. Not exactly true. Remember how Lion Sean O’Brien was able to get away scot free with knocking Waisake Naholo unconscious last year?
Hell, the judiciary almost blamed Naholo. ‘‘Mr Naholo’s body height and head dropped down and into (O’Brien’s) right arm.’’
Twelve. Hats off to the 16,000 people who went to Friday night’s game. Politicians who have sat on their hands over a new Christchurch stadium for seven years should be ashamed.
Crusaders lock Scott Barrett scores the first try in their Super Rugby clash against the Hurricanes at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Friday night.