Brian Ashby: Have the Crusaders left their run late?

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Nemani Nadolo's sheer bulk must been causing some sleepless night's for opposition backlines. Photo / Getty
Nemani Nadolo's sheer bulk must been causing some sleepless night's for opposition backlines. Photo / Getty

It's a wee bit like arriving at the party after most of the guests have given the keg a good hammering. You might enjoy one or two drinks but you'll be paying for your own later on.

On the plus side, the early guests might end the night staggering around incoherently and feeling completely shambolic the next morning, while you're up and about and ready to take on the world. That's the scenario facing the Crusaders as they count down to Saturday night's clash with the Chiefs in Hamilton. Have they left their run a little late?

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After an extremely lacklustre start to the season, Blackadder's Battalion now sits third in the New Zealand Conference, although just three points splits second through to fifth on the Godzone points table. Confidence was clearly in short supply early in the campaign as one stumbling performance followed another. While they don't yet look like world-beaters, their form is trending in the right direction, at last.

Colin Slade is looking more assertive at ten, Crotty has been superb back at 12 and Israel Dagg is looking like Israel Dagg. Nemani Nadolo's sheer bulk must been causing some sleepless night's for opposition backlines, while George Whitelock's late start to the season seems to have reinvigorated the already well-functioning pack.

On the back of their first unbeaten South African roadie since 2008, the Christchurch based side has every reason to feel a little more cock-a-hoop heading into this weekend and beyond. While the impressive Chiefs have closed out the clutch moments against their southern rivals in their last two meetings, there's a feeling that Rennie's wreckers have been treading water over the last few weeks, while the Crusaders have been on the improve.

The news only gets better for the previously under siege Todd Blackadder: on the back of next week's bye, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw is keen to play in the following game against the Brumbies. The potential return of a fit and fresh flyer from the Hakataramea Valley could prove timely, particularly given the load carried by Matt Todd to this point.

But, strip it all back and a loss this weekend will again have things looking grim for the Crusaders. They're set to continue dancing on the edge of the cliff face for a few more weeks.

Brian Ashby is a NewstalkZB commentator based in Christchurch.

- NZ Herald

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