Christie injury compounds Crusaders' woes
Sam Christie's rib injury has just compounded the Crusaders' misery.
Openside flanker Christie will be unavailable for around three weeks after being hurt in the humiliating 16-14 defeat to the Western Force, capping off one of the most bizarre and disappointing weeks in Todd Blackadder's career as franchise coach.
Not only was Blackadder forced to dump promising lock Dominic Bird for breaking team discipline, he had to watch his players drift into a dream-like state that saw them forget the principles of gravity when handling the ball and botch a mountain of possession by crabbing across the park instead of engaging tacklers.
Then came the pitch-invasions by five spectators in the second half.
That resulted in a promising counter-attack, in which the Crusaders had an overlap, being abandoned and forwards coach Dave Hewett and midfielder Ryan Crotty having to assist in bowling the intruders.
To cap-off the mad evening the tourists had to watched the Force celebrate the victory like wild demons, with replacement forward Rory Walton even blubbering with emotion.
Losing to the Force, one of the competition's worst sides, is unacceptable. It wasn't a charge Blackadder was going to deny.
"There's no excuses. We knew it was a vital game. You can have all the 'ifs' and 'buts' but at the end of the day it's not good enough," Blackadder said. "The team has only got itself to blame."
Those "if" and "buts" include lock Luke Romano having two tries disallowed and the pitch invaders blocking a scoring chance.
Bird was replaced by Tom Donnelly in the starting side and Sam Whitelock, who was supposed to rest ahead of this Saturday night's match against the Highlanders, joined the bench. Blackadder said Bird's refused to make public his indiscretion.
"That was internal discipline. He broke a few internal disciplines and they have been dealt with. I can't really add anymore to that. It's a lesson for the young man."
Blackadder's anger must have reached near-fatal levels as his side butchered what should have been four vital competition points on a weekend.
Earlier in the week he had to farewell playmaker Dan Carter, after he joined them for just one night, because of a hamstring strain and yesterday confirmed the All Blacks playmaker is still "two to three weeks" away from starting.
No 8 Kieran Read is "no chance" of playing the Highlanders because of the toe injury he collected against the Kings on March 23. Utility back Tom Taylor should be fit after missing five rounds because of a knee injury.
The loss of Christie means Blackadder will call in another loose forward as cover. Crusaders Knights flanker Jed Brown looms as a logical replacement.
Top openside flanker Matt Todd will return to start against the Highlanders, as will lock Whitelock.
Taylor will probably replace first five-eighth Tyler Bleyendaal but the absence of Carter, who could start at second-five, may block any thoughts of shifting Ryan Crotty to centre to replace Robbie Fruean whose loose off-loading blighted his game in Perth.
The Crusaders attack was far too predictable as the Force's picket-fence defensive line shut them down far too easily.
"The guys just have to have the attitude right," Blackadder said. "If it is not then you see fumbling, poor execution and bad decisions. You have to get the mind right first."