Crusaders cop pounding in Canes post-mortem

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 01/07/2014
THREAD THE NEEDLE: Andy Ellis (with ball) tries to evade Nafi Tuitavake and Colin Slade during a game of touch at training yesterday.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ
THREAD THE NEEDLE: Andy Ellis (with ball) tries to evade Nafi Tuitavake and Colin Slade during a game of touch at training yesterday.

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A fleeting scan of the room didn’t reveal any broken chairs, punched walls or smashed water coolers.

In the ‘‘bad old days’’ the fallout from a defeat such as that suffered by the Crusaders last weekend may have involved coaches, and possibly players, lashing out against various inanimate objects during a post-match debrief.

Those days may have passed but the verbal storm that bounced around inside the Crusaders’ meeting room following their 16-9 loss to the Hurricanes must have been a beaut.

Harsh words needed to be said and by all accounts no-one left yesterday’s session disappointed.

Maybe it was fitting Andy Ellis, the player with the most cheerful disposition, was wheeled out to explain just how the Crusaders can get their Super Rugby playoff aspirations hitched to the upward escalator and not the downward one they so enthusiastically jumped on at the Cake Tin last Saturday night.

Halfback Ellis knew it was nonsensical to try and put a positive spin on that rubbish effort and didn’t bother trying to hide behind surly responses or half-witted answers.

‘‘We let ourselves down in a big way and there are some disappointed boys,’’ Ellis revealed.

‘‘Not a lot really needed to be said. It was already there. (But) in saying that it was said.

‘‘There’s a group that’s going to be right on edge for the week I can tell you that.’’

He didn’t elaborate exactly what was uttered, or by whom, during the meeting but it would be of no surprise if coach Todd Blackadder blew his stack.

It had been a disappointing week for Blackadder, who has drawn heat for keeping faith in Colin Slade at first five-eighth and bringing Dan Carter, who had only played 120 minutes for his Southbridge club following his sabbatical, off the bench.

One of the key themes the Crusaders agreed upon was not to kick directly to the Hurricanes back three; instead they wanted to hoist contestable kicks for their chasers to follow or hoof the ball out. Those instructions were ignored.

Blackadder’s decision to ease No 8 Kieran Read, who had only played 40 minutes for the All Blacks in the last month because of concussion issues, back as an impact player was greeted with much surprise.

After the match Blackadder told media he wanted to help ease Read back, indicating it was better to boost his confidence as a substitute.

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But if All Blacks Carter and Read are fully fit they will surely start against the Blues at AMI Stadium on Saturday night.

If the Crusaders roll the Blues it may be enough to secure a place in the top-six, thus guaranteeing a place in the playoffs. A win over the Highlanders the following weekend would enable them to finish at the top of the NZ conference and possibly finish in the top two, earning the right to host a semifinal.

Ellis was optimistic the robust meeting should have shaken any complacency out of the team.

‘‘The boys got a bit of a shake-up and I think the guys really understand ’this is it’. We have got to win now. We really do and we have to train like that.

‘‘We will have to be right on edge the whole time and ask a lot more questions of each other out on the paddock and make sure we are all as desperate as each other.’’

- The Press

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