Rugby: Plenty of question marks left after Crusaders win

By Cameron McMillan

The Crusaders average only 16 points a game following Saturday's 14-13 win over the Stormers. Photo / Getty Images
The Crusaders average only 16 points a game following Saturday's 14-13 win over the Stormers. Photo / Getty Images

They were the only New Zealand franchise to taste victory this week - a vital first win of 2014 for the Crusaders - but there still remain plenty of questions marks over the seven-time champions and their lack of fire power.

Despite 11 All Blacks in their starting lineup the Crusaders are noticeably lacking any game-breakers in their backline with Israel Dagg, their best exponent of breaking the line, being dropped then shifted from fullback to the left wing in their opening three games.

They sit in 14th spot through four weeks of competition but if you dig deeper into the stats sheet their attacking issues become clearer.

First off and it's an obvious one, they aren't scoring points - averaging only 16 points a game following Saturday's 14-13 win over the Stormers. A huge drop off from the last two seasons when they averaged 27.8 and 30.3 points a game respectively. The last time the Crusaders scored fewer than 15 points at home, in any game let alone a victory, was in 2009 also against the Stormers in a 11-7 win.

They made just one clean break against the Stormers from 136 carries and that came from halfback Willi Heinz. After 13 clean breaks in their opening two defeats against the Chiefs and Blues the Crusaders are now ranked 11th in that category across the competition.

They are ranked 13th in tries scored with five and 12th in defenders beaten but that is despite being the top ranked side in offloads (37) and second behind the Bulls in carries (380).

They have no trouble getting their hands on the ball - they just don't know what to do with it.

Dagg is a perfect example of their failure to break the line despite the high number of opportunities. The All Black fullback has had 38 carries this season but just one clean break.

The good news is they face the Melbourne Rebels and the winless Hurricanes in the next two weeks. The Rebels gave away 32 points in the first half alone in a 32-7 defeat to the Western Force on Saturday while the Hurricanes conceded 17 line breaks in a 29-21 defeat to the Brumbies.

- NZ Herald

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