Crotty wishes Fruean was still in red and black
Part of Ryan Crotty must have wished his old mate Robbie Fruean was still in Crusaders' garb last night.
Fruean set the game alight when he rushed 55m downfield, beating three tacklers – including Richie McCaw – to score his first try for the Chiefs in front of 17,000 fans who once called him their own. after a quick throw-in on the other side of Christchurch Stadium.
“It's good to see him back out there," Crotty said. “He's a friend before rugby and for him to be healthy – I'm stoked to see him out there.
“I saw him blowing a couple of times and hoped to have a crack at him but couldn't quite get him. It's good to see him, as a friend, back out there playing."
Fruean was forced to leave the Crusaders last July to have heart surgery and later signed with the Chiefs.
Second five-eighth Crotty and new centre Reynold Lee-Lo achieved a pass mark as a fresh combination but the major issue for the Crusaders backline was making clean breaks against a well-structured Chiefs defensive wall.
This was a match the Crusaders desperately wanted to win and not only to avenge last year's 20-19 semifinal defeat to the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium.
Apart from the goal-kicking issues, which cost them a potential 21 points, they failed to build pressure due to poor handling and inaccurate passing.
“We had our opportunities to win that game and it's tough to swallow that we didn't take them," Crotty said. “We have got to be tougher with the ball down their end."
The Crusaders' scrum, especially on their opponents' feed, was impressive; they often shoved the Chiefs back on the heels to interrupt any thoughts about attacking.
Johnny McNicholl saved further embarrassment with some fine defending, the right wing showing Aaron Cruden the line before driving into him and dislodging the ball as he lunged for the line.
McNicholl's superior pace won that battle but he got little open space on attack as the Chiefs remained resolute.
Crusaders captain Richie McCaw, who was possibly a little surprised Jamie Mackintosh wasn't yellow carded for a high and no-ball shot on him, refused to have a crack at referee Chris Pollock for the yellow cards to his forwards Dominic Bird and George Whitelock.
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna was also sin-binned for killing the ball in a ruck.