England side have far too much for Crusaders
Terrific occasion - pity about the result.
England out-muscled an inexperienced Crusaders side during tonight's 38-7 win at AMI Stadium, dishing-out a valuable lesson about why you should never gift two early tries and make so many errors against an international side.
For a number of reasons the Crusaders hoped to make this match in front of 17,300 fans a memorable occasion; despite the unavailability of their All Blacks there was a real determination to prove to their northern hemisphere brethren why this Super Rugby franchise is so highly respected Down Under.
The problem was the touring Anglo giants were equally motivated to destroy the party.
That is just what they did. This wasn't quite the case of a gang of bikers' gate-crashing a festival - they were somewhat more subtle than that - but they still showed plenty of physical presence as they used their upper-body strength to rob the ball at the breakdowns and from their opponents' driving mauls.
Not surprisingly Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder was unimpressed by the slow start.
"It certainly looked like the boys were overawed in the first 25 minutes, it was just uncharacteristic and silly errors and they put us to the sword when he we made them,'' Blackadder lamented.
"Things like kick-offs, not catching the ball when there's really no pressure on, exiting poorly and turnovers. Just general fumbling.''
The poor ball security, some of it inexplicable on such a clear night, attributed to the Crusaders' woeful early showing and the loss of captain George Whitelock and lock Jimmy Tupou with head knocks forced changes inside the first half.
England coach Stuart Lancaster would have impressed by key performers such as captain Ed Slater and midfielder Brad Barritt and first five-eighth Danny Cipriani did enough in his 47 minutes to confirm his place on the bench for the third test following the withdrawal of Owen Farrell.
By the time England wing Anthony Watson scored late in the third quarter it was obvious the hosts were not going to win.
But at least they kept trying to have a dig as they dominated possession in the second half.
Blindside flanker Jordan Taufua went close to scoring in the second half and Matt Todd, who replaced Whitelock, was a terrier when foraging for turnovers and fully deserved his man-of-the-match award.
Eventually, however, the Crusaders were undone by their mistakes as England repeatedly tested the offside line and slowed the ball.
"I think our forward pack did a really good job of negating theirs,'' Blackadder said. "We were probably a little bit unlucky we didn't get a lot more turnovers considering we stopped their maul once or twice or three times. But in general we just made too many errors.''
Todd immediately signalled his arrival by scoring the Crusaders only try in the first half when he gathered a bounce-pass by Willi Heinz but it was one of the few bright spots of a gloomy first spell.
Never let it be said these English adhere to the dour game plans utilised by their predecessors.
Cipriani scooted through a gap in the early moments to reward hooker Joe Gray, who blasted up the fat man's channel, with a try in the opening minutes and Crusaders wing Johnny McNicholl couldn't believe his misfortune when an Alex Goode grubber leaped into Ben Foden's arms.
Tries to Barritt and Goode followed, the latter after England skipper Slater simply plucked the ball out of the middle of an opposition lineout drive, and the Crusaders trailed 26-7 at the break.
At least one Cantabrian had something to grin about.
Former Crusaders forward Michael Paterson, who took the field in the 68th minute, marked his England debut with a winner's grin.
England 38 (Joe Gray, Ben Foden, Brad Barritt, Alex Goode, Anthony Watson, Chris Pennell tries; Danny Cipriani 3 cons, Stephen Myler con) Crusaders 7 (Matt Todd try; Tom Taylor con. HT: 26-7