Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Crusaders easily dethrone Kings

Johnny McNicholl of the Crusaders celebrates scoring a try with his teammates. Photo / Getty
Johnny McNicholl of the Crusaders celebrates scoring a try with his teammates. Photo / Getty

Crusaders 57
Kings 24

The honeymoon of sorts the new Super Rugby format was enjoying may now be over. The early rounds threw up a raft of local New Zealand derbies and all that fretting about the expansion looked misplaced.

But not so much now - certainly not in Christchurch tonight where the Crusaders had the game against the Kings in the bag after 25 minutes.

Suspense in this one was nil. The possibility of it ever being anything other than a total drilling by the home side was alive for about five minutes, and even then it wasn't really alive.

The Kings pulled off an early intercept that put them 10-0 in front. If there was a flicker of hope they'd been assessed wrongly, and that they were actually some sort of contender, it was snuffed out in the next 10 minutes.

That's how long it took for the Crusaders to take back ownership of the game and move their mindset towards the serious business of seeing just how much damage they could inflict.

It was too easy for them to make inroads through the middle of the field. The Kings came up together but not with enough speed or venom and their tackling didn't have the aggression or timing to prevent the big men such as Sam Whitelock, Jordan Taufua and Luke Romano from offloading out of the contact. Jimmy Tupou was equally strong on the charge and these four were able to build momentum around the fringes and in the midfield.

It was too much for the Kings. They didn't really know how to defend when the Crusaders pored through that area and, to be fair, plenty of better teams would have struggled.

There was a touch of class about some of the Crusaders' attacking play. Their long passing was

superb across the backline - it was classic execution - then there was the timing and angles of the support runners. Whenever a half-break was made, there would be red jerseys everywhere and the ball-carrier mostly made a smart decision.

Both David Havili and Kieron Fonotia ran straight and it made all the difference. That left space for the outsides who held their depth well and ran hard at a broken line.

Nemani Nadolo was the usual handful and, really, the only thing that saved the Kings was the predictable volume of subs the Crusaders made early in the second half.

Understandably, Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder wanted to give everyone a half-decent run. That meant the Crusaders lost some of their flow and dominance and had to spend periods defending without the cohesion and understanding being quite what they would have wanted.

That was a lifeline the Kings grabbed, scoring two tries in the middle of the half and creating the impression they weren't as bad as all that.

But they were. Don't be fooled and Super Rugby is starting to reveal its true colours now that the stronger teams in the competition are being let loose against the strugglers.

Crusaders 57 (N. Nadolo 2, J. McNichol, B. Funnell, R. Mo'unga, M. Drummond, J. Macilai, P. Samu tries; R. Mo'unga 4 cons, pen; B. Volavola 3 cons)
Kings 24 (Z. Vulindlu, S. Marutlulle, C. Cloete tries; L. Fouche 3 cons, pens).
Halftime: 29-10.

- Herald on Sunday

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 25 Oct 2016 15:29:51 Processing Time: 493ms