Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Belief in game plan finally clicks for Crusaders

Something has clicked for the Crusaders, coach Todd Blackadder reckons.

There is belief - you can't win at Waikato Stadium without it - but there is also enthusiasm and energy and underpinning it all a game plan which is becoming devastatingly effective and will likely become more so as the weather closes in and games get tighter.

After several poor performances which resulted in losses to the Chiefs, Blues and Hurricanes, and a narrow win over the Stormers, the Crusaders put their South African trip to good use. The game plan was put under the microscope; the good kept, the stuff that didn't add value thrown out.

The kick-first-ask-questions-later plan worked against the Lions in Johannesburg, the smash them up front and run them ragged in the backs did likewise against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. Against the Chiefs it was back to the Lions plan of kick for territory and keep the pressure on.

"There was a real turning point for us in that win against the Lions," Blackadder said. "Something has just clicked for us. We've got that belief; coming up here, even though we came back from South Africa last week and had limited preparation, that hunger was there and often that can be the difference.

"What we talked about at halftime was to play at the right end of the field and put the pressure on and we did that and controlled the game. We worked our way back into it which was pleasing."

The Crusaders could only work their way back into it after weathering a Chiefs' onslaught on their line that in the past might have resulted in a try to Ben Tameifuna or in years past Soma Taumalolo. "You talk about mindset shifts and that probably turned the game. Our attitude was Crusaders-like from old, the fact that they had to defend so much and turned it over without conceding a penalty.

"We gave ourselves an opportunity. Probably in the past we might have tried too hard or capitulated and that shows the difference in belief."

The bye comes at a good time for the Crusaders, who lost skipper Kieran Read to a failed concussion test in the first half. Lock Dominic Bird has been cited for his no-arms tackle on Liam Squire which resulted in a head injury to the No8.

However, Luke Romano is due back from a calf strain and All Blacks captain Richie McCaw could return from a broken thumb for the Cru-saders' next match against the Brum-bies in Christchurch on Saturday, May 3.

- APNZ

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