Cru­saders lose leader White­lock against Blues

The Press - - Sport -

The rev­e­la­tion Sam White­lock won’t play the Blues has capped­off a zany week.

At any other time the news Cru­saders cap­tain White­lock had been crook, and there­fore ex­cused from the match in Auck­land on Satur­day night, might have cre­ated some tasty head­lines for news or­gan­i­sa­tions starved of fod­der. But this has been no or­di­nary week, and there­fore lock White­lock’s omis­sion barely cre­ated a rip­ple.

‘‘He wasn’t feel­ing great early in the week, so we just made a call – to give him a chance to fresh­enup,’’ Cru­saders coach Scott Robert­son ex­plained.

Open­side flanker Matt Todd takes over the cap­taincy. Quin­ten Strange will start in the sec­ond row along­side Scott Bar­rett, and loose­head prop Tim Perry re­places the sus­pended Joe Moody. In other changes Owen Franks and Hei­den Bed­wellCur­tis start at tight­head prop and No 6 re­spec­tively, and Ryan Crotty and David Hav­ili re­turn to the back­line.

Moody warmed things up this week when he pleaded guilty to clob­ber­ing Waratahs mid­fielder Kurt­ley Beale last week­end, ac­cept­ing a two-week ban.

Then All Blacks cap­tain Kieran Read made a shock re­turn to train­ing, his first out­ing on the train­ing pad­dock this year.

This was fol­lowed by Leon Mac­Don­ald, who last year ac­ti­vated a clause to al­low him to exit his job as Cru­saders as­sis­tant backs coach so he could re­turn with his fam­ily to Blen­heim, an­nounc­ing he would join archri­vals, the Blues, on a three-year term. Just when we thought we had seen it all, Cru­saders CEO Hamish Ri­ach an­nounced he would end his 17-year ten­ure at the end of the sea­son be­cause he was tak­ing-up a job as boss of the Ash­bur­ton Dis­trict Coun­cil.

The con­cept of Mac­Don­ald, who sev­eral years ago had re­sisted an in­vite by former Blues coach John Kir­wan to move north, guid­ing the Blues might make some diehard Cru­saders sup­port­ers spray their por­ridge over the kitchen ta­ble.

Robert­son wanted Mac­Don­ald to ful­fil his two-year deal at the Cru­saders, but couldn’t con­vince him to stay. ‘‘He (Mac­Don­ald) wanted to be a Su­per coach, he had a cou­ple years con­tract with us and opted out after the first year and then ob­vi­ously wanted to get back to Su­per coach­ing,’’ Robert­son said. ‘‘He has gone up to be an Auck­lan­der, all the best to him and his fam­ily. When he was here, I tried ev­ery­thing I could pos­si­bly do to keep him here and he made his de­ci­sion for his fam­ily to head to Blen­heim, as he told us, and now he is a Blue.’’ Cru­saders: David Hav­ili, Seta Ta­mani­valu, Jack Good­hue, Ryan Crotty, Ge­orge Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall, Jor­dan Tau­fua, Matt Todd (cap­tain), Hei­den Bed­well-Cur­tis, Quin­ten Strange, Scott Bar­rett, Owen Franks, Codie Tay­lor, Tim Perry. Re­serves: An­drew Makalio, Wy­att Crock­ett, Mike Alaala­toa, Mitchell Dun­shea, Pete Samu, Mitchell Drum­mond, Mitchell Hunt, Manasa Mataele.

GETTY IM­AGES

Kieran Read had surgery on his spine in De­cem­ber and hopes to be back play­ing in July.

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