Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

First take: Change of luck works wonders for Slade

Colin Slade kicked all 18 points for the Crusaders. Photo / Getty Images
Colin Slade kicked all 18 points for the Crusaders. Photo / Getty Images

Colin Slade, one of the unluckiest men in New Zealand rugby, has had a change of fortune and boy is that reaping rewards for the Crusaders.

There he was last weekend in Bloemfontein, patched up from head to toe and running the show for the Crusaders against the Cheetahs. Todd Blackadder acknowledged it as his best game for the team since his return to the Crusaders from the Highlanders. Big wing Nemani Nadolo received the players' player of the day after that one, but even he admitted it could have gone to Slade.

And here he was last night in Hamilton, Aaron Cruden's domain, getting the job done in the toughest of circumstances.

It was the battle of the first-fives in the end. Incredibly, Gareth Anscombe had the chance to win it after the hooter, but his 51m-odd effort fell just short.

It was only his second miss of the night and it allowed the Crusaders to win an extremely important victory both in terms of competition points and their morale.

They haven't won here since 2012. they're generally close-run things, but this was taking it to extremes.

Which brings us back to Slade who now seems set for a long stint in the Crusaders No10 jersey providing he stays injury free and that's not a given.

Slade has broken his jaw a couple of times, seriously injured his groin more than that - after the World Cup the area in which he was operated on got infected. Result: More time in hospital.

It was his goalkicking which got the Crusaders home - his two misses from eight attempts hit the right upright - but it was more than that too.

How important was his run from deep after he had kicked his team into the lead for the first time since the 32nd minute? It carried on the Crusaders momentum and kept the Chiefs on the back foot slightly. It was just enough.

It's dangerous to read too much into one match because things change extremely quickly in this game - compare and contrast the Hurricanes and Blues over the past couple of weeks. The Chiefs are certainly not out of this.

Why? Because of two things in particular - their ability to soak up pressure and bounce back like an industrial-strength rubber band, and also the way in which they can cope without pivotal players, although their lineout remains a massive weakness.

They have been flat recently but have picked up the points. The Brumbies in Canberra next weekend will be a challenge but this might serve as the wake-up call they need.

The lack of a properly functioning lineout, though, is effecting how they play. They lost three in the first half and several after the break. A couple of throws were borderline too.

With paranoia around their set piece taking hold, they took quick lineouts whenever possible - a normal tactic for them, but one which can add to the pressure. Opposition teams don't mind kicking the ball out against the Chiefs when they know they've got a decent chance of getting the ball back.

Plenty of work for the Chiefs then. For the Crusaders and Slade, though, this victory represented the perfect 10.

- APNZ

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