Plenty to work on for Crusaders before opener
Todd Blackadder wasn't in the mood to hand out bouquets on Valentine's Day and the Crusaders certainly didn't win any wavering hearts and minds in Sydney last night.
But they did get the chocolates - a 16-14 Super Rugby trial win over the NSW Waratahs at the Sydney Football Stadium.
A Tom Taylor penalty with nine minutes remaining enabled the Crusaders to recover from the concession of two converted tries, though defeat was surely inevitable had the hosts not treated the kicking tee like a jilted lover.
Michael Cheika's refusal to let his kickers take penalty goals during the pre-season regime proved costly, not that the franchise's new head coach regretted his policy.
"We want to win but I think you see by the way we decided not to take penalty kicks for goal that we understand the balance of what we want to get out of the practice match as well," he said.
Brendan McKibbin converted tries by Lopeti Timani and Paddy Ryan and halfback would have backed himself to raise the flags with at least some of the six penalties on offer once he replaced Grayson Hart.
All up, the Waratahs gave up 27 potential points but at least their tries did follow their determination to play expansively after the Crusaders infringed.
The Waratahs certainly had plenty of scope to attack, particularly after the Crusaders built a 13-0 lead at halftime.
For the majority of the second spell the Crusaders were hemmed in their own territory so confining the Waratahs to just two tries gave Blackadder and captain Kieran Read some satisfaction from an otherwise grim encounter.
"We spent most of the time on defence, we were put under the pump a bit and we'll take a bit out of that," Blackadder said.
The Crusaders were caned in the penalty count by Steve Walsh and rightly so, according to Blackadder who agreed their discipline needed tightening before their season-opener against the Blues at Eden Park on March 1.
"There was the odd player offside and we deserved every one of them (penalties) from what I could see. We were offside, it's just a work ethic thing.
"If it was a real game there would be totally different structures and we would have been penalised a lot more with three points."
Read, one of the All Black contingent in action for the first time this year, described the defensive effort as "outstanding" but admitted the attack needed finessing.
"It was just a messy game from our point of view. We couldn't get into the game because we were on D (defence) a lot of the time.
"We'll work on our attack. We have to be real smart and a lot more accurate."
Tighthead prop Pa'ea Fanunu scored the Crusaders only try from a rolling maul, a rare moment of concerted build-up from the visitors.
"Everyone wants their money back, is that right?" said Blackadder, as he started his post-mortem.
"These pre-season games are all like this, we were pretty disjointed.
"It was messy but we got what we needed to out of it. We got a tough game."
Blackadder claimed "everything was in place" and the team would be well-prepared before they head to Auckland.
The process continues with a hit out against the wider training group on Wednesday.
On a positive note the Crusaders emerged unscathed from a torrid contest. Dan Carter limped off with a bruised knee shortly before halftime but Blackadder said he was only withdrawn as a precaution.
Crusaders 16 (Pa'ea Fanunu try; Dan Carter pen con; Tom Taylor 2 pen) Waratahs 14 (Lopeti Timani, Paddy Ryan tries; Brendan McKibbin 2 con) Halftime: 13-0