Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Crusaders take down Waratahs

Crusaders 29 Waratahs 10
Jed Holloway of the Waratahs is tackled by Jordan Taufua of the Crusaders. Photo / Getty
Jed Holloway of the Waratahs is tackled by Jordan Taufua of the Crusaders. Photo / Getty

For the Crusaders, the perfect antidote to their defeat to the Highlanders last week was a game against an Australian or South African side, and they drank deep from the medicine bottle against the Waratahs in Christchurch tonight.

The Sydneysiders had little response to a Crusaders team determined to right the wrongs of their loss in Dunedin.

With Luke Romano, Joe Moody, Owen Franks and Kieran Read setting the tone up front from the first minute in the pouring rain, the Crusaders were completely dominant, and first-five Richie Mo'unga and wing Johnny McNicholl reaped the benefits.

McNicholl was over the line after three minutes and provided a try for Israel Dagg with a catch and pass from Mo'unga shortly afterwards. Referee Jaco Peyper denied McNicholl another due to an alleged transgression by flanker Matt Todd, but with only Israel Folau providing a threat for the visitors, it was very much one-way traffic throughout.

There was to be no happy home-coming for former Daryl Gibson, the former Crusaders assistant and now Waratahs head coach, although there was a consolation for replacement wing Zac Guildford, unwanted in these parts but attempting to find a new home in Sydney.

Guildford scored a try in the second half to deny the Crusaders a bonus point, something which might rankle initially but coach Todd Blackadder will be happy with his team's attitude and overall performance.

The lack of a bonus point was a minor setback for a side determined to keep their place at the top of the points table, a position made tenuous by the fact they failed to score a point in Dunedin last week.

With the Chiefs and Highlanders also lurking on 37 points, the Crusaders had to at least win in order to maintain their challenge for the top spot. The Highlanders have a bye this weekend, but the Crusaders' win puts the pressure back on the Chiefs to put in a similarly compelling performance against the Rebels in Hamilton.

That it was so comfortable for Blackadder's men wasn't a particular surprise because they have been a class above compared with the South African and Australia sides this year.

New Zealand teams are a different matter - the Chiefs and Highlanders are the only teams to beat them this season, and their next big test will come against the Blues at Eden Park next Saturday, a match which wing Nemani Nadolo will be available for after serving a three-match suspension.

With the Crusaders so dominant at the set piece - the Waratahs lost six of their lineout throws, with Read and Sam Whitelock particularly problematic for the visitors - Waratahs flanker Michael Hooper, so dominant at the World Cup with the Wallabies alongside Brumbies mate David Pocock, was almost completely neutralised.

It was the perfect way to celebrate halfback Andy Ellis' 150th Super Rugby match at the end of a week in which he announced he wouldn't return to the Crusaders next year.

"There was a bit of pressure on the lads this week, so to get a response like that was outstanding. We want to play our style of footy" said Read. "We saw the weather and that wasn't our game plan, to hold on to the ball to be honest, but it was outstanding footy.

"We nullified their lineout... and that got us into the game and stopped their play so it was great work from those boys."

Crusaders 29 (Johnny McNicholl, Israel Dagg, Richie Mo'unga, Jordan Taufua tries; Richie Mo'unga 3 cons, pen)
Waratahs 10 (Rob Horne, Zac Guildford tries)
Halftime: 22-5

- NZ Herald

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