Dream game turns nightmare

20:27, Mar 08 2013
READY: Israel Dagg prior to kick off at Westpac Stadium, Wellington.
PRE-MATCH: Crusaders' Owen Franks before kick-off.
BOLT: Crusaders' George Whitelock makes a break.
BIG HIT: Crusaders' Israel Dagg on the attack
BROTHERS: Crusaders' Owen Franks (L) and Hurricanes' Ben Franks (R) set a scrum.
CAPTAIN: Crusaders' Kieran Read makes a tackle on Hurricanes' Victor Vito.
DANGEROUS: Crusaders' Ryan Crotty in action.

The Super Rugby nightmare continued for the Crusaders last night as they somehow butchered a victory to stumble 29-28 to the Hurricanes at the Cake Tin.

The defeat means the Crusaders, who at least scored a bonus point for four tries, have yet to record a win after two games.

Although Dan Carter missed a late drop-goal for the Crusaders no-one was blaming the first five- eighth, who earlier kicked four conversions and marshalled his side's attack.

Several key decisions sealed the Crusaders' fate.

Openside flanker Matt Todd looked to have scored in the 68th minute but television match official Glen Newman ruled a knock-on at an earlier ruck; instead of being ahead 33-19 with the conversion to come the Crusaders were only up nine points.

What followed was the sort of thing that encourages coaches to throw themselves out of the coaching box.


A penalty to Beauden Barrett - his sixth of the night in an immaculate display of goal kicking - closed the gap. Then Hurricanes wing Alapati Leiua intercepted a wide pass by replacement midfielder Adam Whitelock to score and Barrett didn't disappoint with the conversion.

Carter's "droppie" attempt, with four minutes remaining, sailed outside the uprights.

"It was just really disappointing to lose a game like that," frustrated head coach Todd Blackadder said.

"I suppose we have only got ourselves to blame with our discipline and those penalties we gave away in the first half."

Blackadder was almost resigned to Leiua scoring when he saw Whitelock wind up his long pass.

"You could read it and with the way their line-speed was, you could see it unfolding. We all know the consequences of that but that is just life, isn't it. There's nothing you can do about it."

Both sides would have been disgruntled at their scruffy displays in the earlier exchanges as repeated scrum resets and spilled passes dominated.

By halftime the Crusaders had made 11 turnovers and conceded eight penalties - five in their own half - and Barrett lashed them by kicking four penalties.

While prodding short kickoffs for Todd to win had the Hurricanes stonkered, the Crusaders stifled their own momentum by repeatedly surrendering the pill.

Last week Israel Dagg was caught in the crossfire as pundits debated why he didn't start at fullback, but his positional switch had little to do with his try after the halftime bell.

A spilled ball by midfielder Tim Bateman was hoofed downfield and Conrad Smith couldn't match Dagg's pace as he displayed some beautiful footwork to control the ball during the 80m sprint.

Dagg wasn't feeling so chuffed minutes later, though, when Canes left wing Julian Savea glided over his ineffectual tackle, having earlier cleaned his boots on the hapless Tom Marshall after the Crusaders blew a defensive lineout.

Then the Crusaders struck back. Johnny McNicholl started a movement inside his own half, which, followed by clever inter- passing by Carter and substitute back Tom Taylor, had Carter claiming the bonus-point five- pointer.

Ryan Crotty's try in the first half had little to do with planned set-plays or daring counter-attacks and instead involved a dollop of individual skill. Sighting daylight in a weak seam near a ruck, Crotty slipped past Barrett and shrugged the tackles of Bateman and Leiua in a 40m sprint for the chalk.

There were other promising movements for the Crusaders in that opening stanza but they often broke down because of simple errors; Kieran Read spilled the ball when he penetrated the line, a pass from Todd to Andy Ellis floated forward and a promising break by McNicholl was rendered useless because of a ruck turnover.

Next week the Crusaders meet the Bulls in Christchurch. They will be desperate for the win.



Hurricanes 29 (Julian Savea, Alapati Leiua tries; Beauden Barrett 2 cons, 5 pen)

Crusaders 28 (Ryan Crotty, Corey Flynn, Israel Dagg, Dan Carter, tries; Carter 4 cons). HT: 12-7.

Fairfax Media