Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Crusaders destroy Brumbies

Nemani Nadolo of the Crusaders dives over to score a try during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Brumbies. Photo / Getty Images.
Nemani Nadolo of the Crusaders dives over to score a try during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Brumbies. Photo / Getty Images.

CRUSADERS 40
BRUMBIES 20

It's an impossible business trying to understand this year's competition. The Brumbies destroy the Chiefs one week, are then destroyed by the Crusaders the next.

And they were destroyed. The Crusaders never once looked like doing anything other than winning with plenty to spare. They had too much of everything for the Brumbies.

Certainly too much at the scrum where some good old fashioned Australian values of wriggling out of the contest were inexpertly applied by the Brumbies. They were horribly exposed in the first scrum and really didn't want to know anything about it from there.

The Crusaders are a big pack. After that first scrum, they probably bordered on being considered a fearsome pack - starting as they did with seven All Blacks.

On the occasions they didn't force the Brumbies into conceding a penalty through the engagement, they had them in terrible trouble with the force of their surge.

There was some impressive collective explosiveness from the home pack at times; almost lifting the Brumbies off their feet with the power of the hit.

The Crusaders' dominance there was telling - both directly and indirectly. The bulk of their penalties came from direct set-piece infringements by the Brumbies. Then there was the psychological damage that inflicted in other parts of the visitors' game.

It wasn't that the Brumbies melted all over the park. They were quite handy at launching rolling mauls and their defence was tough to break down. But they were forced onto the back foot in all of the physical exchanges and no one can beat the Crusaders like that.

Not when Richie McCaw was back and in surprisingly good form after his eight-week lay-off. The All Black skipper conceded a few penalties in the first half but his influence began to tell deeper into the game when his tackling and scrambling at the turnover did plenty to keep the game in the Crusaders' pocket.

That sort of work was invaluable, too. The Brumbies don't like to open things open much - preferring instead to use the boot and apply pressure through their kick-chase.

It made for a gripping but far from beautiful contest. Points in the bag is ultimately what it was all about. The Crusaders have never been particularly hung about how their victories come - style has never triumphed over substance in their world.

This was sleeves up and get on with it: mop up the high balls that rained down on the back three and attack the Brumbies at the scrum and lineout.

Graft and tenacity would lead to a bucket-load of penalties coming their way and when Colin Slade kicked them, the Crusaders had a scoreboard to reflect their dominance.

They were also aware that all their pressure would throw up the occasional half chance and they had to take them when they came. Clinical and efficient - that was the Crusaders.

Crusaders 40 (J. McNicholl, N. Nadolo, L. Whitelock tries; C. Slade 7 pens, con; W. Heinz con)
Brumbies 20 (S. Moore, P. McCabe tries; N. White con, 2 pens; M. Toomua con)

- Herald on Sunday

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