Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Big Crusaders' win tempered by Romano injury

Johnny McNicholl (L) of the Crusaders celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Crusaders. Photo / Getty Images.
Johnny McNicholl (L) of the Crusaders celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Crusaders. Photo / Getty Images.

Crusaders 57
Reds 29

The Crusaders' stunning victory over the Reds tonight has been tempered by a broken ankle for All Blacks lock Luke Romano which will rule him out of next month's test series against England and possibly the season.

"It is a real blow for Luke,'' coach Todd Blackadder said. "He has only just come back from his calf injury so to have this happen is terrible for him.''

The Crusaders have Dominic Bird to call on, plus Jimmy Tupou, who replaced Romano tonight. Bird is also likely to be the main beneficiary for the All Blacks, with Blues lock Patrick Tuipulotu's stocks also rising.

First take: Crusaders keep in touch

Romano's injury will dampen the celebrations in Brisbane for the Crusaders, and will have All Blacks coach Steve Hansen re-thinking his plans, but Blackadder's men have every reason to be extremely proud of their demolition job.

Having watched their New Zealand conference rivals the Chiefs, Highlanders and Hurricanes score victories this weekend, the Crusaders needed to do the same at Suncorp Stadium tonight, a place where their 2011 title dreams went up in smoke and where they haven't won since 2008.

To say they broke that hoodoo is to put it extremely mildly. After a tight first half they went ballistic, huge wing Nemani Nadolo scoring his second try, Wyatt Crockett taking a cheeky quick tap and going over, and wing Johnny McNicholl and No8 Luke Whitelock showing impressive pace and awareness.

This six-try bonus-point victory sends the Crusaders up the leaderboard from ninth to fourth. They are now only four points behind conference leaders the Chiefs, who have a bye next weekend.

The Crusaders will host the Sharks and will fancy their chances of extending their winning streak to six.

Although their lineout wasn't quite up to its usual standard, they put enormous pressure on the Reds' scrum.

It was Colin Slade who really caught the eye, however. He kicked 11 from 11 shots at goal and his cutting runs and passing game continually sent his side in the right direction. His wrap-around ball to Luke Whitelock was instrumental in Nadolo's first try, the former Brisbane boy enjoying a good start in front of his family and friends.

From there it went a bit haywire for the Crusaders, who had halfback Andy Ellis sinbinned for offside at a ruck when the visitors were on their final warning from referee Jaco Peyper.

Wing Jamie-Jerry Taulagi went over in the corner and then Cooper engineered a try for opposite wing Dom Shipperley, with a lovely delayed pass.

It was to be a mere aberration. The second half signalled a 24-point avalanche for the Crusaders, who made a mockery of not only their hex in Brisbane but also their inability to score four or more tries this season. McNicholl's second try, when he took advantage of a Cooper error with his pace and awareness, summed up the night perfectly.


Crusaders 57 (Nemani Nadolo 2, Johnny McNicholl 2, Wyatt Crockett, Luke Whitelock tries; Colin Slade 6 cons, 5 pens)

Reds 29 (Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, Dom Shipperley, Rod Davies, Rob Simmons tries; Quade Cooper pen, 3 cons)

Halftime: 17-16 Reds

- APNZ

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