Super Rugby: Five things we learned from the Crusaders win over the Waratahs
OPINION: The Crusaders have returned to the top of Super Rugby after a 41-22 win over the Waratahs in Sydney on Sunday. Here are five things Canterbury rugby writer Richard Knowler learned about the Crusaders from the match:
1. Their desire to keep taking the fight to their opponents was massive at Allianz Stadium
Whether it was Matt Todd leading the defensive line with repeat sets of tackles, or the backs always scanning for moments to launch a counter-strike, the Crusaders rarely stopped trying to find ways to make the Waratahs feel uncomfortable.
2. They have the fortitude to stick to the battle plan
It could have been easy to release the throttle, and cautiously wind down the clock in the dying minutes. No chance. They turned-up the heat, scoring a try through replacement hooker Ben Funnell to secure a bonus point.
3. That they weren't perfect
Some passes were wild, either going to ground or not getting near their intended target. Impressive Waratahs halfback Jake Gordon also exploited space around the ruck fringes, tearing open the defensive line.
4. Blooding newcomers in the first six rounds has opened-up everyone's eyes
No 8 Whetu Douglas, first five-eighth Mitchell Hunt and wing/fullback George Bridge - we know who they are now. Prior to their first Super Rugby season, they were just names on the squad sheet. That's changed.
5. The arrival of some veterans hasn't been too bad, either
Centre Tim Bateman and ex-Wallabies wing Digby Ioane have added value. Bateman's two tries, both from adventurous long-range attacks, were the plums following a sound effort in Sydney. He has a head for the big occasion. Ioane will want to improve, but hasn't been a passenger.