Fijian Drua 8
The Crusaders have maintained their perfect home playoff record with a near-perfect dismantling of the Fijian Drua.
Scott Robertson’s side tonight made it 28 wins from 28 Super Rugby knockout games in Christchurch, proving far too strong for a visiting team making their postseason debut.
It appeared a mismatch when the quarter-finals fixtures were set — despite the Drua’s stunning round-three upset of an understrength Crusaders in Lautoka — and that proved true as the six-time defending champions progressed to yet another semifinal.
They will now search for No 29 when hosting the Blues in next weekend’s semifinals, looking to repeat their victory over their rivals in last season’s showpiece. And judging by the effectiveness of their set piece in particular, the Crusaders’ home streak will take some snapping.
Hooker Codie Taylor grabbed a double tonight to break a tie with George Bridge and move fourth on the franchise’s all-time try-scoring charts with 39, as the lineout drive they have lent on all season was again unstoppable.
The hosts’ scrum was supreme throughout, building pressure and forcing back their opponents, while their ability to put together phases was similarly unmatched.
In fairness to the Drua, they preferred — and occasionally thrived in — unstructured play, managing to apply a few tests when ran and pushed the pace of the game.
But given they had lost their last seven games outside of Fiji, conceding an average of 41 points, this trip never seemed one they would relish.
The tone was set from the opening kickoff as Caleb Muntz failed to make 10 metres. That small opening was all the Crusaders needed to begin their charge as the returning Oli Jager crossed following a strong carry from Braydon Ennor.
Taylor’s brace from a couple of patient and persistent mauls made in 21-0 inside 15 minutes, and when the Drua made another mess of the subsequent kickoff, it was tempting to call the contest over.
It took 20 minutes for the Drua to break into the opposition 22 — much to the delight of a vocal visiting fan contingent — but eventually settling for three points from right in front was a questionable call.
A few minutes later it was made to look downright foolish when, after a probing spell near the line, Sione Havili Talitui snagged his side’s fourth.
The Drua did at least head to halftime on a high as Selestino Ravutaumada picked off a poor pass from Will Jordan and raced across unimpeded. But with a 20-point lead, the Crusaders would have been supremely confident in their position, even if some sloppiness had crept into their game.
Ill discipline was the main problem and that flaw was prominent early in the second spell. Yet the Drua lacked the quality to capitalise and, turning again on their lineout, the Crusaders essentially ended the visitors’ faint chances through Scott Barrett.
Robertson took that opportunity to start emptying his bench and welcomed back Ethan Blackadder for his first appearance since tearing his calf in March. But the unfortunate flanker lasted only 10 minutes before being forced off, affixing one blemish to an otherwise ideal outing.
Crusaders 49 (Oli Jager, Codie Taylor 2, Sione Havili Talitui, Scott Barrett, Will Jordan, Willi Heinz tries; Richie Mo’unga 6 cons, Fergus Burke con)
Fijian Drua 8 (Selestino Ravutaumada try; Frank Lomani pen)