Rugby: Laws have little bearing as Crusaders win big

Crusaders 34 Brumbies 3

Judgement should be reserved on rugby's new laws after the Crusaders opened the Super 14 with a dominant 34-3 defeat of the ACT Brumbies in Christchurch tonight.

Rain and sodden ground conditions at AMI Stadium ruined any chance of a spectacular start to the championship but there was no doubt about the winners, boosted by two tries to athletic No 8 Mose Tuiali'i.

The six-time Super rugby champions adjusted best to the Experimental Law Variations, which clearly have the potential to create a fast-moving game.

However, that never unfolded and the Crusaders relied on old fashioned dominance of possession and territory for long periods to clear away in a four-try performance.

Up just 10-3 at halftime, the Crusaders were more clinical in the second half, aided by a cohesive, dominant pack led by Tuiali'i, captain Richie McCaw and prop Greg Somerville.

First five-eighth Daniel Carter was creative with his kicking while perhaps their sharpest player was fullback Leon MacDonald in his 100th game for the franchise.

The Brumbies clearly missed the authority of long-serving but now departed halves George Gregan and Stephen Larkham and were mainly content to kick possession away.

They were out-hustled up front and seemed less at home with some of the new laws, which were smoothly marshalled by South African referee Mark Lawrence.

Of concern was Brumbies centre Adam Ashley-Cooper being assisted from the field midway through the first spell with an ankle injury that appeared serious.

McCaw cut a tired but content figure.

"Conditions made it a little bit tricky but I thought we adapted well. Four tries, we're pretty happy with it," McCaw told Sky Sport.

"On defence we were pretty sound and even though the ball was pretty slippery, we used it well."

McCaw didn't believe the ELVs had a major influence on the game.

"To be quite honest, you wouldn't know a lot different tonight," he said.

"Out there it was business as usual. The game did flow a bit, which was good."

Brumbies captain and opposing openside flanker George Smith said his team never adapted to the wet and had ample to work on.

"It was tough conditions out there but that's no excuse for the loss, they were very dominant around that ruck area and a lot of missed tackles didn't help us," he said.

"You've got to keep possession and keep the opposition team in retreat. We didn't do that throughout the whole match."

Smith, who often slotted in at halfback for defensive scrums, said the Brumbies were still coming to grips with the changes to the laws.

"It's a very fast game, which is something I enjoy. (But) It takes a bit of getting used to and come the next game we'll be a lot better."

Carter opened the scoring with a 13th-minute penalty but the scores were levelled 5min later through a penalty to Brumbies fullback Julian Huxley.

Tuiali'i nabbed the competition's first try courtesy of a counter-attack launched by MacDonald which went swiftly through the hands to create an overlap.

The slippery ball denied both teams a try either side of halftime.

Brumbies winger Mark Gerrard spilled a pass with the tryline at his mercy in the final act of the first spell while transferred Crusaders lock Ali Williams dropped it over the line just after the break.

Tuiali'i's second try was a testament to controlled forward play, with the Crusaders forwards employing 17 pick-and-goes before the former All Blacks No 8 barrelled through and over three tacklers.

Carter missed two penalty shots before slotting one and lock Brad Thorn announced his return to rugby with a try 10 minutes remaining.

The bonus point try went to Carter in the final minute, giving him a 19-point haul.

Carter was among several players from both sides playing their first meaningful game since New Zealand and Australia bombed out in the World Cup quarterfinals four months ago.

The Crusaders now embark on a two-match tour of South Africa, starting with the Lions in Johannesburg next weekend.

Crusaders 34 (Mose Tuiali'i 2, Brad Thorn, Daniel Carter tries; Carter 2 pen, 4 con) ACT Brumbies 3 (Julian Huxley pen). Halftime: 10-3.

- NZPA

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