Well, that scoreline really summed up the game. Although the Crusaders' tight-five appeared to be on the back foot early on, they wrestled the dominance back and sent the backs cruising past defenders, for a 24-3 half-time score. Although the Highlanders produced a late save for their blushes, this wasn't enough. After a dissatisfactory Round 1, the Crusaders will head into Round 3 with a far better place on the competition table after their 52-15 win.
Sevu Reece's standout show on the right wing was one of many strong performances in the Crusaders' big result. Photo: Max Sharp.
Since there are a lot more positives to mention than last week, let's not waste anytime. Let's read through the Crusaders' lineup from jersey number 1 through to number 23 and see how each player went.
CRUSADERS PLAYER RATINGS
Loosehead Prop - Joe Moody (7/10)
Although the Crusaders' 57% possession rate restricted Moody to 3/4 tackles he had no problem showing his scrum prowess. Has noticeably better discipline since his injury layoff and used his 4 carries to run 2 metres and score 1 try. All in a prop's day of work.
Hooker - Codie Taylor (8/10)
Looks lean and very much World Cup ready. Threw all of his lineouts on target winning 10 in total, while scoring a try off a driving maul. Carried hard to run 16 metres and beat 1 defender, while 6 passes nearly matched his 7 carries. 7/9 tackles and 1 turnover equate to a pretty good outing.
Tighthead Prop - Tamaiti Williams (7/10)
Was looking sore with a few possible cramps in the first half but luckily lasted 56 minutes in a dominant display of work around the pitch. Ran 10 metres of 3 physical carries, gave a try assist to Sevu Reece and cleaned rucks quickly, though possession rates had Williams confined to 3/4 tackles of his own.
Lock 4 - Scott Barrett (6/10)
Didn't copy his brothers' kicking practice routine this time, but took no prisoners in tight spaces. Opted to work as the main fringe guard of the breakdown and made 7 passes. 4/5 tackles and 1 turnover showed willingness to get defensively involved too.
Lock 5 - Sam Whitelock (8/10)
Returned from a pre-season concussion to begin his final Super Rugby season as the main lineout option. Whitelock's usual form was ever-present, with 18 metres and 2 defenders beaten from 9 carries, while 11 passes gave the Highlanders a headache. 2/2 tackles and 1 turnover were also made by Whitelock.
Blindside Flanker - Ethan Blackadder (8/10)
Although a very mixed game was Blackadder's result last week, cleaning up a few errors made him into a key carrier this week, with 36 metres, 1 defender beaten and 1 clean break. Is looking more settled after an injury return and put the Highlanders to the sword with 9/9 tackles and 1 turnover.
Openside Flanker - Tom Christie (8/10)
Looks far more intent on moving the ball compared to last season, with 16 metres, 2 defenders beaten and 1 clean break off 4 carries. Made 8 nice passes and topped the team's tackle chart with 10/10 and 1 turnover. Is hungry to be more highly-rated. One bad knock-on.
Number 8 - Christian Lio-Willie (7/10)
Had a good time with ball-in-hand against his old team and has off-set the loss of Pablo Matera's physicality. Ran 44 metres and beat 1 defender off 9 carries, missing none of his 9 tackles either. Could handle the ball better and get more involved at the breakdown next week.
Halfback - Mitchell Drummond (5/10)
Nothing too significant to note from Drummond, just came along to do his job and get the ball wide so the Crusaders could play off their 9-10 axis. Could do to assert himself on the game plan a bit more.
First-Five - Richie Mo'unga (10/10)
After going missing in the second half last week, King Richie was back this week. A faultless display where he scored a try, didn't miss a goal, ran 67 metres, beat 4 defenders and made 1 clean break off 9 carries will get him a 10/10 every time. Made 28 passes and 1 tackle.
Left Wing - Leicester Fainga'anuku (4/10)
Was the one starting back who played the full 80, not to really get much ball. Scored a solid enough try to put 50 up but was only able to run 28 metres thanks to a small 5 carries. Looked a little suspect on defence with 3/6 tackles. Hopefully he'll be back stronger next week, good signs were at least there.
Second-Five - David Havili (9/10)
With the exception of a couple handling errors, Havili had the perfect game. Told Thomas Umaga-Jensen that technique trumps size with 60 metres, 5 defenders beaten and 2 clean breaks off 7 carries, while he distributed 10 passes and 2 offloads. Set up a try for Mo'unga and scored one himself. 6/6 tackles and 1 turnover as well; the All Blacks' 12 jersey is his.
Centre - Jack Goodhue (No rating)
Looked pretty eager to go early on but was walked off with a groin injury, after just 13 minutes of game time. Goodhue won't be rated due to a lack of game time. Hopefully this injury won't be as serious.
Right Wing - Sevu Reece (8/10)
It's no wonder Drummond was barely kicking, with the quartet of Reece, Burke, Mo'unga and Havili all doing so well. Reece took his attacking chances too; with the opening try, 56 metres run, 4 defenders beaten and 2 clean breaks off 10 carries. Made 12 passes and 2 offloads to stay involved, while defending hard with 7/7 tackles and 1 turnover. His test career isn't over yet!
Fullback - Fergus Burke (7/10)
Though Burke wore a very unfamiliar jersey, he looked pretty good at 15. Kicked intelligently for territory and used his added muscle to counter attack for 55 metres off 9 carries. Big ask for next week, is can Burke be more of a hands-on manager of the game plan?
Reserve Hooker - Brodie McAlister (No rating)
McAlister was only able to make 4 tackles in 17 minutes of game time, before Taylor needed to come back on. Hopefully his injury isn't serious.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - George Bower (6/10)
Although I'm unsure how many metres Bower run, due to most of them being post-contact, his 2 carries were very effective in generating front-foot ball. Gave the game a good defensive go with 5/6 tackles. Came off the bench and did the basics well overall.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Seb Calder (5/10)
Has been called into the Crusaders on a short-term deal as injury cover for Fletcher Newell and Oliver Jager, who are expected to return in a few weeks. Held his own in the scrum and didn't look out of place in his second Super Rugby match at all.
Reserve Lock - Zach Gallagher (5/10)
Played 24 minutes off the bench, replacing Blackadder, while Barrett moved to 6. Made 3 passes and 3/4 tackles in a decent enough cameo off the bench that included some lineout takes.
Reserve Loose Forward - Sione Havili Talitui (7/10)
Havili Talitui, who appears to be Tonga's first-choice number 8 ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, took some strong ball up the guts off the base of the scrum. Visibly annoyed the Highlanders by slowing their ball, though he didn't win a turnover. Made 4/4 tackles.
Reserve Halfback - Noah Hotham (7/10)
Long-touted as a future superstar, Hotham made his debut at 19 years old. Noticeably improved the quality of the team's ball, while running 9 metres off 3 carries. Managed 3/3 tackles which is always good from a halfback.
Reserve Utility Back - Braydon Ennor (5/10)
Appeared rattled when asked to come on so early in the game for the injured Goodhue and made a few handling errors. His 9 passes weren't overly effective, though some gaps did eventually open for 41 metres off 6 carries.
Reserve Outside Back - Macca Springer (6/10)
Much like last week, Springer didn't want a small amount of game time, from deterring his strong running game. This time around he made 36 metres, beat 2 defenders and made 1 clean break off 4 carries. A start later in the tournament would be beneficial.