Written by Max Sharp.
In similar fashion to the Easter of 2021, the Crusaders suffered a shock loss at home; though it was to the Blues for the first time since 2004, rather than the Highlanders. Despite being down to 13 players at one stage of the match, Scott Robertson’s men can be proud of the work ethic they demonstrated in the narrow 23-27 loss. There are always reasons for losses, so we’ll have to dissect the performance of each Crusader from number 1 to 23 and rate who the best performers were.
Crusaders Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - Joe Moody (3/10)
Was a liability until being taken off injured in the 34th minute. Moody failed to match his opponents’ activeness at rucks, while he also didn’t make any metres off his 2 carries; 1 pass and 1 tackle were the only other statistics Moody had on his sheet.
Hooker - Codie Taylor (8/10)
Was able to hit 100% of his lineouts despite having inexperienced jumpers available, showed his form as the Crusaders’ true captain. Taylor ran 29 metres, and made 1 clean break off 9 carries, while also delivering 4 passes and making 10 tackles. Inspirational 80 minute game.
Tighthead Prop - Oliver Jager (6/10)
Like Moody, Jager was out-performed by the Blues’ props. 3 metres from 5 carries saw him pushed back a bit, but 8 tackles was a decent effort. With pressure from Newell and Williams though, Jager will need to be more imposing next week.
Lock 4 - Scott Barrett (1/10)
Barrett was red-carded in the 45th minute for a shoulder charge to the head of his former teammate Alex Hodgman, enough said there. Will likely get a long suspension, this isn’t his first offence for dangerous play. Not ideal to be a captain getting red-carded.
Lock 5 - Zach Gallagher (7/10)
Has recently bulked up from 102kg to 117kg and if the 20-year-old Gallagher adds on a bit more beef, he’ll be one to watch. Only made 5 metres off 7 carries, but excelled in the lineout, ruck clearances and on defence, making 16 tackles. Perhaps there is life after Whitelock?
Blindside Flanker - Ethan Blackadder (4/10)
Not the kind of performance he’d have wanted ahead of the mid-year tests. Blackadder only managed 4 metres off his 5 carries, 9/11 tackles wasn’t an ideal effort, neither was a single turnover. Also, Blackadder’s knock on in the 80th minute was just 5 metres in front of the try line, confirming the game’s result. Games are lost up-front.
Openside Flanker - Tom Christie (7/10)
Was replaced by Matera in the 49th minute and had already made 15 tackles by that stage. Christie’s attack wasn’t quite there like the previous week though, his 6 metres were off only 1 carry. Needs more x-factor to convince Fozzie of a call-up.
Number 8 - Cullen Grace (6/10)
Managed 32 metres off 10 carries, 7 passes and 9 tackles, but these didn’t seem to get his team much go-forward. The jury is still out on Grace being a number 8; doesn’t have the same power off the base of a scrum that the likes of Alex Dombrandt of England can offer.
Halfback - Bryn Hall (2/10)
One of the worst performances I’ve seen from a player this season. All 45 of Hall’s passes were far too slow and it killed all of the Crusaders’ momentum in the first half, a missed tackle on Papali’i didn’t help either. Too many aimless box-kicks too. Start Tahuriorangi.
First-Five - Richie Mo’unga (8/10)
Pessimists will point out the flaws of Mo’unga’s game, his first missed kick was a shocker, as was his defensive misread on Dalton Papali’i. The rest of his game however, world class. 61 metres, 8 defenders beaten, 1 clean break off 11 carries. 38 passes was a great effort too. Consider the “battle for the 10 jersey” a stalemate so far, Mo’unga’s tactical kicking was able to get the Crusaders out of jail many times behind a flailing pack.
Left Wing - Leicester Fainga’anuku (5/10)
Moved to 13 in the second half when Bridge replaced Ennor but wasn’t able to get in the game that much compared to his previous performances. 34 metres isn't a lot from 11 carries for a wing, though he beat 4 defenders and made 1 clean break. MIA on defence.
Second-Five - David Havili (4/10)
The unnecessary criticism directed at Havili has lessened the impact of this here, a genuine poor performance. Copped an avoidable yellow card and missed an incredibly easy tackle on Beauden Barrett; leading Finlay Christie to score. 17 metres and 3 defenders beaten off 6 carries was the result of Havili’s lack of decent ball, though he provided some with 8 passes, including a try assist for Jordan.
Centre - Braydon Ennor (6/10)
Had a bit of an average performance, only making a single carry; though it lead to 7 metres. Ennor’s five tackles were hard though, which was good. Needs to ask for more ball, Ennor managed to make the most out of few opportunities.
Right Wing - Sevu Reece (7/10)
Wouldn’t go down without a fight and deservedly scored 2 brilliant tries. The rest of his running stats covered 49 metres, 2 defenders beaten and 2 clean breaks off 5 carries. 6 tackles is alright for a winger as well. Will easily retain his place in the All Blacks.
Fullback - Will Jordan (8/10)
Like Etene Nanai-Seturo last week, was able to run over 100 metres against the Blues and still lost. Jordan’s exact total was 151, as he scored 1 try, beat 8 defenders and made 3 clean breaks off 15 carries. Brilliant distribution too, 20 passes. Looks likely to be the season’s MVP.
Reserve Hooker - Ricky Jackson (No rating)
Jackson was named in jersey 16 but did not play due to Codie Taylor’s classy performance, so won’t be rated.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - George Bower (6/10)
Provided much more defensive urgency than Moody did, with 8 tackles. Bower also provided a good hand with keeping possession in the 2nd half, a rate of 63% thanks to his ruck speed. Could do better than 4 metres off 5 carries though.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Fletcher Newell (6/10)
The rookie had such great commitment to keeping his team’s ball and continuing the 100% scrum rate that he didn’t even end up having to make a tackle, excellent impact off the bench at ruck time. 4 metres off 4 carries could be improved on, but Newell likely knows that already. He’s got a big future.
Reserve Lock - Dominic Gardiner (7/10)
The 20-year-old didn’t allow his small-for-a-lock frame of 1.91m and 108kg to stop his team’s lineout from being effective. Did well there and also managed 9 metres off 2 carries, 2 passes and 2 tackles. So close to scoring a match-winning try as well.
Reserve Loose Forward - Pablo Matera (6/10)
Matera didn’t have a brilliant performance himself by any means, but his vast experience off the bench bought a calming effect to his team. Was surprised to read he only ran 1 metre off 3 carries, it appeared to be more than that.
Reserve Halfback - Mitchell Drummond (8/10)
Much like Matera, Drummond also bought a real sense of maturity off the bench and thrived off providing his team with quick-ball. The aggression of the Crusaders’ ball-carrying was far more prominent with Drummond’s 46 passes; much of the Crusaders’ comeback attempt was thanks to his fast decision-making
Reserve First-Five - Fergus Burke (No rating)
Was the second of two Crusaders named to play, that didn’t take the field. Burke won’t be rated as a result.
Reserve Outside Back - George Bridge (7/10)
Have calls to cull Bridge from the All Blacks been thrown around prematurely? This was his best performance in a long time, including 74 metres and 2 defenders beaten, off 8 strong carries.