Written by Max Sharp.
The penultimate round of Super Rugby Pacific has began by giving the casual viewer everything they'd have wanted to see. A massive 61-3 win for the Crusaders, with heaps of running rugby, then finishing with honest post-match interviews by the captains and the two teams joining up in a circle, to sing a hymn together. There's plenty of food for thought for us purists as well, so as usual, we'll read through the Crusaders from number 1 to 23 and analyse the players' performances.
Crusaders Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - Finlay Brewis (7/10)
Not the most dynamic of performances, but Brewis demonstrated work ethic as a real grafter. Like most number 1's, he'll be annoyed to have lost two of his scrums due to the Drua conceding penalties, but his 6 carries were all effective, leading to 24 metres. 8 strong tackles too, a performance the coaches will be pleased with.
Hooker - Ricky Jackson (9/10)
A couple of overthrown lineouts were Jackson's only mistakes, what a game. 53 metres and 4 defenders beaten off 10 carries are great stats, as are 8 passes and 1 offload. Excellent defence as well; 10 tackles and 3 turnovers. A career-best game for Jackson.
Tighthead Prop - Fletcher Newell (6/10)
Did the basics well by hitting plenty of rucks, had made 6 tackles before being subbed off at half-time. Newell had disappointingly, only made 1 carry (though it was for 8 metres) and 2 passes, but not every player gets to stand out.
Lock 4 - Zach Gallagher (8/10)
Bought a real sense of purpose to the pitch. Gallagher had a similar performance to Brewis, running some hard 31 metres off 8 carries. Made 1 pass off the lineout, while completing 12 tackles. We'll have to continue watching this young prospect for many years to come!
Lock 5 - Sam Whitelock (9/10)
A monster game by the big number 5, who still has plenty of energy for an older player. The 14-time All Black captain's 4 carries were all outstanding, he ran 41 metres and beat 6 defenders while scoring a try. Delivered 3 passes, while also completing 7 tackles.
Blindside Flanker - Scott Barrett (8/10)
Barrett played at flanker for the first time in at least a year and did it well. The top carrier of his forward pack with 13, using these to run 48 metres up the guts of the pitch. 11 strong tackles and 1 turnover will be leaving the Crusaders captain with a sore body too!
Openside Flanker - Tom Christie (9/10)
A perfectly-timed excellent game for the 24-year-old. 3 carries aren't a lot, but Christie made them effective with 2 tries and 18 metres. Defended excellently as usual, with 18 tackles and 3 turnovers, he will be crossing a total of 200 tackles for the season next time he plays.
Number 8 - Ethan Blackadder (7/10)
At last playing in his preferred position, Blackadder looked comfortable. No standout performance at all, but a useful one. 28 metres and 1 defender beaten off 4 carries, while delivering 5 passes and 1 offload are good attack stats, 12 tackles was the second-most of the team (tied with Gallagher). This will help Blackadder's re-selection case for the All Blacks.
Halfback - Bryn Hall (6/10)
Started the game doing the basics and finished on the same note. Hall delivered quality ball to his teammates on all 67 passes, though he only carried once. Did some defending well though, with 4 tackles and 1 turnover.
First-Five - Fergus Burke (9/10)
Would have been thrilled after that. Expressed his skill well and filled in successfully as a Mo'unga like-for-like with 23 passes. Managed a 21-point haul through 8/9 conversions and a try, whilst running 32 metres and beating 2 defenders off 6 carries. 8 tackles as well, great effort.
Left Wing - Leicester Fainga'anuku (10/10)
Fans should rightfully feel disgusted if Fainga'anuku does not debut for the All Blacks this season. Another stunning game with 1 try, 111 metres, 8 defenders beaten and 1 clean break; from a team-high 14 carries. A few distributions of 4 passes and 2 offloads; made 5 tackles and 1 very good turnover too. The stats speak for themselves!
Second-Five - Jack Goodhue (7/10)
Goodhue wasn't poor by any means; but soft defence gave him a field day. On for just 54 minutes but still ran 61 metres, beat 1 defender and made 1 clean break from 5 carries. Made 8 solid passes and 5 tackles too. A good performance; will Ian Foster approve?
Centre - Braydon Ennor (7/10)
Had a couple of knock-ons but will be happy to reach 50 Super Rugby games. Ran 104 metres, beat 3 defenders and made 1 clean break off 9 carries; also made 8 passes and 2 offloads. 9 tackles is good since his team had 59% possession too; Ennor did the basics well.
Right Wing - Sevu Reece (9/10)
The best Fijian on the pitch was playing for the Crusaders. Reece had a good outing; scoring 2 tries to equal Leon MacDonald as the second-to-highest ever try-scorer for the team; running 100 metres, beating 2 defenders and managing 4 clean breaks from just 7 carries.
Fullback - Chay Fihaki (8/10)
Jury's still out on if he's ready to be a regular starter, but Fihaki looked confident. An excellent job communicating with the team by making 11 passes; didn't shy away from defence either; 3 tackles and 1 turnover. Great running stats like the rest of the team with 66 metres and 3 defenders beaten off 9 carries. A hard-working effort.
Reserve Hooker - Shilo Klein (No rating)
Didn't get much opportunities on his return from suspension; only made 2 tackles in a 17-minute cameo off the bench so won't be rated.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Tamaiti Williams (5/10)
This wasn't a prop's kind of game; Williams got confined to the basics of his role, with 2 metres off 2 carries and just 1 tackle. Proved his worth as an impact player by hitting the rucks often but probably should have started.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Oliver Jager (6/10)
A similar performance to Williams; Jager's 40 minutes saw him make just 2 carries for 3 metres. A little bit of distribution with 3 passes and 1 offload. His 6 tackles all hit hard; he took the same approach to the rucks. Would have preferred a closer match because of his position!
Reserve Lock - Dominic Gardiner (7/10)
Gave it a decent crack from the blindside when replacing Whitelock in the 63rd minute - Scott Barrett moved to lock. Gardiner's single carry was very effective; 12 metres run, 1 defender beaten and 1 clean break. Gave 4 passes and made 4 tackles too.
Reserve Loose Forward - Corey Kellow (6/10)
Another reserve who made the most of few opportunities. The number 20's single carry was worth 10 metres; while he made 1 pass and 3 tackles. Would have been better to see Kellow start; this game would have provided him an important opportunity.
Reserve Halfback - Mitchell Drummond (No rating)
Didn't do too much in his 26 minutes; left himself to nothing but his core role of 31 passes. It would be unfair to rate Drummond as he didn't make other contributions.
Reserve First-Five - Simon Hickey (7/10)
As usual, a great idea to have an experienced backup to the rising talent. Hickey ended up coming on for Goodhue instead of Burke and made solid decisions; all of his 12 passes went the right way. Hickey also used his 2 carries to run 12 metres; made 1 tackle too.
Reserve Outside Back - George Bridge (7/10)
Had a successful 27 minutes wearing jersey 23. Bridge scored his 37th try for the Crusaders; running 11 metres off 4 carries. Passed back inside twice; whilst he was happy to defend and made 5 tackles. Could he be heading overseas after this season though?