Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Crusaders find form to put one over Brumbies

Dan Carter of the Crusaders is tackled during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Brumbies and the Crusaders. Photo / Getty Images.
Dan Carter of the Crusaders is tackled during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Brumbies and the Crusaders. Photo / Getty Images.

Crusaders 30
Brumbies 23

The dust was still settling on the dropping of All Black Israel Dagg when this match kicked off, but the Crusaders forwards and the performance of Dan Carter ensured there would be several different talking points by the time it finished.

The pack have been good in recent weeks - though not as effective in the narrower than expected win over the Rebels in Christchurch last weekend. Tonight, though, they grabbed hold of this match and refused to succumb to the competition high-flyers at Canberra Stadium.

It was a crucial victory built on the desperation and directness of the tight five and in Carter the Crusaders had just the man to capitalise. These were the Crusaders of old and they will go to the bye week still in seventh place overall but a whole lot happier than they have been recently.

The pack's dominance wasn't built on the set piece, either, with the Brumbies competing well at the scrum after they got their timing right. The lineout wasn't brilliant, but nor was the Brumbies'. It was in the contact areas where they excelled - whether it was with the ball or on defence. They just seemed to want it a little more.

The Brumbies have based their success this season on their high-percentage game plan which, while not always attractive, can be extremely effective.

The problem for Jake White's men comes when they have to take chances when chasing a game. Down 20-10 with a quarter of the match to go, they didn't seem to know where to start in the face of the Crusaders' pressure.

While Dagg came on in the 57th minute and scored a screamer of a breakout try with a little help from wing Tom Marshall and centre Robbie Fruean, it was Carter who orchestrated the victory.

He kicked six goals from six, but wasn't perfect - the Brumbies opened the scoring when opposite Matt Toomua intercepted his pass to run in from 70m. However, his calm influence was crucial. The Crusaders' backs looked more connected than they have recently but most of their momentum came from the forwards where Wyatt Crockett and Luke Romano took the ball straight ahead like battering rams. Flanker Matt Todd shone at the breakdown as a result.

"We thought this game would be season defining and we got there and did the job. Now after 10 rounds we can freshen up with the bye and go for the next segment,''captain George Whitelock said afterwards.

The key moments were just after halftime. The Brumbies looked to break the 10-all deadlock by throwing everything at the Crusaders, only for the visitors to defend, if not comfortably, then very effectively.

Having done so, they gradually built, which led to Zac Guildford's try. It was probably their best of the season, a highlights package in itself, the finale featuring two deft offloads from Ryan Crotty and Romano for Guildford to go over in the corner for a try superbly converted again by Carter.

Dagg's timely intervention pushed the score out to 30-13, with the Brumbies hitting back at the death through No8 Ben Mowen and opting to take a late penalty in the final minute for a losing bonus point.

After Carter threw his intercept after only seven minutes, the Crusaders simply went back on attack and got into their work through their forwards. George Whitelock and Romano were held up over the line on separate occasions before Andy Ellis was offered too much space from a scrum which he gratefully accepted.

Remarkably, it was the most comprehensive victory by a New Zealand side this weekend. It appears the Crusaders are back.

Crusaders 30 (Andy Ellis, Zac Guildford, Israel Dagg tries; Dan Carter 3 cons, 3 pens)
Brumbies 23 (Matt Toomua, Ben Mowen tries; Christian Lealiifano 2 cons, 3 pens)
HT: 10-10

- APNZ

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