Ryan Crotty demands Crusaders go up gear
Ryan Crotty is not unaccustomed to having his heels hanging over the Super Rugby abyss.
Crusaders skipper Crotty struggled to explain his side's lacklustre display, especially in the first half, during Saturday night's 16-9 loss at the Cake Tin but as he mined for positives he noted his team's ability to rebound from past poor performances is proof they can still pack a knockout punch when it matters.
"I don't know what it is about us but history would suggest that when we are really under pressure we really pull finger and go well," an exasperated Crotty reflected.
"That's when we get ahead. I don't think we get complacent but now we are desperate the boys are going to have really go up a gear."
Crotty knows these are desperate times.
Victory in Wellington would have lifted the Crusaders to 45 points, alongside the second-placed Sharks.
Although the Crusaders still lead the NZ conference, they have a superior win ratio to the Highlanders (also on 42 points), this run home is going to be extremely tight.
To guarantee themselves a play-offs berth they must win at least one of their remaining regular season matches against the Blues and Highlanders at AMI Stadium.
Midfielder Crotty has the unappealing task of containing the in-form Ma'a Nonu next weekend and knows the Blues, who walloped the Force 40-14 in Perth, will hope for a clear night to try and utilise the attacking thrust provided by Lolagi Visinia, Frank Halai, George Moala and Nonu. Charles Piutau may also be fit after missing the June tests with a knee injury.
Had Canes forward Blade Thomson not scored his late runaway try the Crusaders could have salvaged a win but the reality is their performance wasn't worthy of a victory.
While the Crusaders were without Richie McCaw, Israel Dagg and Nemani Nadolo, the Hurricanes were missing Conrad Smith and lost key players Victor Vito and Alapati Leiua early.
It was frustrating to see aimless kicking gift Julian Savea easy attacking opportunities.
"We did lots of things that we prepared not do which was frustrating and just turned over the ball too cheaply," Crotty conceded.
"They played well in that first half but I guess what it came down to was they were more physical than us and their breakdown was better."
At least the defence, he said, was committed for long periods but the absence of giant wing Nadolo couldn't be used as an excuse.
"We didn't lose because Nems wasn't there. It was just that we didn't execute well enough."