Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: McCaw steps up tackle count

Richie McCaw made 20 tackles in the game against the Brumbies. Photo / Getty Images
Richie McCaw made 20 tackles in the game against the Brumbies. Photo / Getty Images

When Matt Todd went down with a calf problem after only three minutes in the Crusaders' big victory over the Brumbies, Richie McCaw would have said goodbye to any thoughts of an early substitution in his comeback match.

What followed was a masterclass from the All Blacks captain, who didn't quite tackle himself to a standstill because he still found the energy and skill to effect a couple of turnovers as the Brumbies, one of the form teams of the competition, tried and failed to get any traction in the damp turf of an early winter Christchurch afternoon.

The Brumbies' team bus was apparently caught in traffic and arrived at AMI Stadium half an hour later than expected and McCaw and his Crusaders teammates kept the roadblocks coming in their 40-20 victory.

McCaw, his broken thumb mended and playing his first match since round two, made 20 tackles, more than twice as many as the best Brumbie. Colin Slade, who kicked seven penalties and a conversion, was the next best with 12 tackles.

It was that defensive determination, as much as their late blooming attacking threat - with big wing Nemani Nadolo again making his presence felt - which paved the way for this victory, one which highlighted again that the Crusaders will be a genuine threat. Todd is likely to miss his team's next assignment against the Reds in Brisbane next Sunday, with utility back Tom Taylor (concussion) and midfielder Kieron Fonotia (calf) also big doubts.

However, coach Todd Blackadder will hope to get No8 Kieran Read back for the match at Suncorp after concussion ruled him out of this match. With McCaw back, the Crusaders have an embarrassment of riches at loose forward, with George Whitelock not required in the match day squad for the past fortnight. Replacement Jordan Fonotia played well on the blindside flank when coming on for Todd and Luke Whitelock is continuing his impressive recent development. His second-half lineout steal was deservedly finished off with a try as the Brumbies let it slip.

Watch: Rugby highlights: Crusaders 40 Brumbies 20

The Reds would do well to brush up on their scrummaging after watching their countrymen demolished in Christchurch. With Owen Franks, Ben Funnell and Wyatt Crockett applying immense pressure, their international counterparts Scott Sio, Stephen Moore and Ben Alexander had no answer, the visitors conceding free kicks or penalties time and again.

"We knew we had to upset [their forwards] if we were going to be a chance," Crusaders captain Ryan Crotty said. "Their lineout is one of the best in the comp, and their scrum as well, so big ups to our tight five, they really fronted."

- APNZ

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