Well well well, that's not the season-opener that Crusaders fans were after. While Scott Robertson's men appeared in control of the game after a half-time lead of 10-7, the tight-five forwards crumbled under the pressure of the Chiefs' fastening ruck speed and the Crusaders went home losers, after a margin of 10-31. The Crusaders' 49 missed tackles definitely played their part.
Tom Christie was the top tackler for the Crusaders in their 21-point loss. Photo: Max Sharp.
As this was the worst losing margin suffered by the Crusaders in a long time, there's always the need for a post-match autopsy. While covering this match through YouTube analysis would lead to my channel being wiped off the face of the earth due to SANZAAR, we do have the ability to read through the Crusaders from jersey number 1 through to 23, as we examine how well each player went against the Chiefs.
CRUSADERS PLAYER RATINGS:
Loosehead Prop - Joe Moody (8/10)
34 years old and still going strong, with an early return from an ACL injury sustained in 2022. Moody's first game back was a strong effort, as he schooled Chiefs newcomer George Dyer in the scrum. Ran 8 metres off 3 carries and nailed 9 tackles in a deserved homecoming.
Hooker - Codie Taylor (7/10)
A solid effort up-front with 6/6 lineouts thrown and nice work at slowing the Chiefs' breakdown. Carried well with 16 metres off 9 carries and made 3 passes. Taylor's only missed tackle from 6/7 total, unfortunately allowed Brodie Retallick to score a try.
Tighthead Prop - Fletcher Newell (6/10)
The number 3 is looking trim and his off-season work enhanced his continued improvements at the game's technical fronts, as the Crusaders evoked presence at the breakdown. Newell's only carry saw him held up over the try line, while 7 tackles were solid.
Lock 4 - Scott Barrett (7/10)
Don't blame the Sky Sports crew for asking Barrett if he'd practiced kicking with his brothers. The two useful chip-kicks went with 11 metres off 5 carries, 5 passes and 14/17 tackles, as well as 1 turnover, to complete a thorough stat sheet.
Lock 5 - Mitchell Dunshea (4/10)
Starting Dunshea straight away after his return from a long injury period, wasn't the go. His 10/14 tackles was the worst ratio of the starting tight-five forwards, while he wasn't quite as quick as the others when attending the breakdown. Dunshea should have been eased back in.
Blindside Flanker - Ethan Blackadder (6/10)
While this particular fellow returnee from injury, was looking much more robust, it wouldn't be completely outlandish to suggest the bad outweighed the good in Blackadder's game. The Chiefs scored two tries in the space of Blackadder's yellow card; with the Crusaders' breakdown lacking presence in this time. The fan base will admire 28 hard-run metres off 11 carries, 11/12 tackles and 3 turnovers.
Openside Flanker - Tom Christie (5/10)
Came to play, with 11 metres and 1 defender beaten from 6 carries. Christie's will to move the ball more was further enhanced by 4 passes, though his 23 tackles did come at the cost of 5 misses, the second-most of the team.
Number 8 - Cullen Grace (No rating)
Had made just a single tackle in the game before being replaced in just the 8th minute. Due to a lack of game time, an injured Grace won't be rated.
Halfback - Mitchell Drummond (7/10)
Could have been a little faster, but provided quality ball to run off nevertheless. Young Noah Hotham is being set strong standards by Drummond, who also managed to complete 11/11 tackles; a strong effort for a halfback.
First-Five - Richie Mo'unga (7/10)
Shined with an early drop goal and dancing feet in the first half, amassing 87 metres and 2 defenders beaten off 9 carries. Mo'unga's ability to control the game faded with his team's front-foot-ball though, as a giant hole he left on defence forced others to cover. Was Mo'unga playing like a schoolboy though? No, the usuals coming out of the woodworks, should take note of the forwards.
Left Wing - Leicester Fainga'anuku (4/10)
Not his best work. Fainga'anuku couldn't break the field open with any of his 7 carries. Getting fended off by halfback, Cortez Ratima, directly saw him fail to close a gap left open by his team too. Mark Telea is a safer bet for the All Blacks.
Second-Five - Jack Goodhue (6/10)
A second surgery on his ACL injury didn't manage to wreck Goodhue's World Cup hopes, he's back playing. Took the ball into contact well with 23 metres and 1 defender beaten from 4 carries, while managing 9/10 tackles. Were 6 passes enough from a 12?
Centre - Braydon Ennor (5/10)
Made a few nice runs with 25 metres off 5 carries; while adding 1 turnover to the team tally. Completely disappeared in the second half though, as he was outshone by Alex Nankivell. Will need a massive effort next time.
Right Wing - Sevu Reece (7/10)
Got busy on both offensive and defensive work, with 73 metres and 4 defenders beaten from 8 carries, while 4 passes and 2 turnovers were classic to see. Appeared to feel the need to overplay, with a few questionable kicks. 7/11 tackles will always receive the scrutiny too.
Fullback - David Havili (8/10)
Havili appears to have bulked his way up to 100kg and looks the complete threat on attack. In place of Will Jordan, Havili's opening try, 64 metres and 2 defenders beaten were off 11 carries. His massive boot was utilised well, but his tackle accuracy of 9/15 suggested that perhaps it would have been more appropriate for a specialist fullback to start instead; Havili will likely be back at 12 next week with Goodhue at 13.
Reserve Hooker - Brodie McAlister (8/10)
One of just two substitutes to have some kind of impact, McAlister was strong as a half-time replacement for Codie Taylor. Threw well in the lineout and managed 14 tackles, while contributing 10 metres off 4 carries. Is McAlister the fifth-choice All Blacks hooker?
Reserve Loosehead Prop - George Bower (4/10)
Joe Moody was subbed off and the Crusaders appeared to lose their front-foot ball straight away... coincidence? While Bower's tackle rate was 7/9 tackles, one of those was an open door for Alex Nankivell to score.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Tamaiti Williams (4/10)
Pairing a 1.96m Williams and a 1.83m Bower as the replacement props caused a scrum imbalance in the second half, while Williams' 3/5 tackles can definitely be improved on. Look to see him grow into the season.
Reserve Lock - Zach Gallagher (4/10)
Played 20 minutes and didn't make a noticeable contribution, with 3/4 tackles and slower work ethic in the tight spaces compared to the Chiefs pack. Why did Gallagher go on the All Blacks XV tour over Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Fabian Holland and Caleb Delany?
Reserve Loose Forward - Christian Lio-Willie (9/10)
The new signing made a huge impact on the game coming off the back of the scrum. Lio-Willie was straight in for Grace and played like a veteran. Ran 29 metres off 12 physical carries, distributed 5 passes, made 1 turnover and nailed 22/25 carries. A debut to remember.
Reserve Halfback - Willi Heinz (4/10)
Heinz' return to the Crusaders after playing his last game for them in 2015 wasn't what the loyalists hyped themselves for, as Heinz struggled without the front-foot ball and had a dodgy tackle rate of 3/5.
Reserve First-Five - Fergus Burke (No rating)
Burke played the last 13 minutes at fullback with Havili moving to midfield and won't be rated due to a lack of opportunity.
Reserve Outside Back - Macca Springer (No rating)
Similarly to Burke, Springer won't be rated, as he didn't receive many opportunities after receiving some scrappy passes from Heinz.