Written by Max Sharp.
Everything great will end eventually and this is becoming increasingly clear for Scott Robertson's Crusaders, who have plateaued in 2022 after five straight seasons of winning trophies. Most pundits expected a proper, well-constructed annihilation of the Rebels, who currently sit in 9th place on the Super Rugby Pacific table. The team failed to make the most of many opportunities, having dominated the scoreboard in the first half only to have a 7-3 half time lead. The final score was a bit more pleasing, a 42-17 win was the Crusaders' end result. We'll have to read up on each player from number 1 to 23 and find out how this all happened.
Crusaders Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - George Bower (4/10)
The number 1 was a battering ram on attack, running 17 metres and beating 1 defender off 5 carries. Was outmuscled at scrum time however, Bower was on the pitch when the Crusaders lost one off their own feed. Sure, the team had a 57% possession rate, but 3 tackles just isn't good enough from an experienced player.
Hooker - Codie Taylor (2/10)
I never thought I'd have to write this, but Taylor had a shocker. He failed to throw straight at two lineouts, while failing to make any metres off his lone carry, which resulted in a knock-on. Taylor made 3 passes, 3 tackles and 1 turnover so not enough defending either. Hooked off in the 48th minute, everyone has a bad game at some stage.
Tighthead Prop - Oliver Jager (6/10)
Like the rest of the tight five forwards, Jager was uncharacteristically error-ridden too. Managed 8 metres off 3 carries, making 2 passes and 7 tackles, though he was also on the pitch to lose a scrum. A bit of an average game from Jager.
Lock 4 - Zach Gallagher (4/10)
The rookie was thrust into the action and worked hard but couldn't really get going. Gallagher's 8 carries only resulted in a 3 metre gain, though he was used as a distributor with 5 passes. Not defensively involved enough either, just 3 tackles. He'll learn from this and continue improving.
Lock 5 - Sam Whitelock (6/10)
Whitelock made very good calls, taking over as captain from Taylor, though his return from injury wasn't brilliant. Ran 4 metres and beat 2 defenders from his 5 carries and made 9 passes, having been the main lineout man. 4 tackles and 1 turnover though? Not enough. Whitelock had an above-average game rather than a brilliant one.
Blindside Flanker - Pablo Matera (10/10)
This is why the Crusaders hired him. Matera showed off some football skills whilst running 99 metres, beating 6 defenders and making 3 clean breaks off his team-high 13 carries. Made 7 passes and 2 offloads (though one went forward) and defended with 5 tackles and 1 turnover. World-class performance.
Openside Flanker - Ethan Blackadder (9/10)
Will have fended off competition for his place in the All Blacks after that, Blackadder managed to score 2 tries, run 66 metres and beat 4 defenders from 12 carries. Managed 5 passes and 10 tackles too, so that's a great all-round showing.
Number 8 - Cullen Grace (7/10)
Grace scored the opening try by running a great support line, but was otherwise anonymous on attack; his 36 metres and 1 defender beaten off 4 carries was thanks to that line. Got stuck in as a distributor with 7 passes and 1 offload and 7 tackles, Grace had a game where he was focused on the basics of his role above anything else.
Halfback - Mitchell Drummond (4/10)
The number 9 had a performance reminiscent of Bryn Hall's one from last week. Though he ran 38 metres off 5 carries, these runs eventuated to nothing, his 53 passes and 2 offloads weren't up to normal speed either. The game improved when Drummond was subbed off.
First-Five - Richie Mo'unga (10/10)
Say what you want, but the backline is the Crusaders' strength nowadays. Mo'unga was the puppet master pulling the strings with 44 passes and a team-high 4 offloads, while his own carrying was superb with 68 metres, a team-high 8 defenders beaten and 2 clean breaks off 9 carries, his support runners needed to back him up better though. 5/5 goals too, a perfect game.
Left Wing - Leicester Fainga'anuku (9/10)
Fainga'anuku's first try was ruled out through Matera's forward pass, but he scored at last in the 78th minute. Ran the most metres of the team with 103, also beating 4 defenders and 2 clean breaks off 11 carries. Distributed with 5 passes and 2 offloads while contributing 10 tackles, the joint-most for the team and 1 turnover. A near-perfect game; rushing out of line to let Hodge in unmarked was his only error.
Second-Five - Jack Goodhue (7/10)
A long-awaited return from injury would have satisfied Goodhue greatly. Though he didn't run the best support lines game-long, he came alive for them in the second half and ran 64 metres, beat 4 defenders and ran 2 clean breaks off 4 carries. 11 passes too, very good.
Centre - Braydon Ennor (5/10)
This was an example of stats not telling the whole story. Ennor ran 60 metres, beat 1 defender and made 2 clean breaks from 9 carries, while making 7 passes, 2 offloads and 5 tackles. However, he rushed out of line too much and had a fair few handling errors.
Right Wing - Sevu Reece (6/10)
Reece was seriously starved of ball in the first half (except for one run), while he didn't come off the wing to defend enough, with just 3 tackles. Played better in the second half and finished with 63 metres, 3 defenders beaten and 2 clean breaks off 8 carries. A mixed game.
Fullback - George Bridge (6/10)
He added some nice distribution to the match with 12 passes, Bridge's defence wasn't the best for a 15 though, he completed just 2 tackles. Ran 81 metres and beat 1 defender off 8 carries, but he was probably another example of stats not telling the full story. A mixed game.
Reserve Hooker - Ricky Jackson (7/10)
The absence of Shilo Klein and Brodie McAlister has seen Jackson improve so much. Came on for Taylor in the 48th minute and threw well at lineouts, while running 5 metres off 3 carries, making 3 passes and 6 tackles. Nice effort off the bench.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Tamaiti Williams (7/10)
Yup, I like Williams at loosehead prop much more. Showed some worthy fitness at set-piece, while his 2 carries saw him run 13 metres and score a try off a well-run support line. Only contributed 1 tackle and 1 turnover to the defence however, we can put that on possession.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Fletcher Newell (6/10)
Newell came on for Jager in the 55th minute and scrummaged very well, while also running 9 metres and beating 1 defender off 2 carries. Still made 3 tackles despite a 62% possession rate in the second half, he'll be an All Black before his mid-twenties.
Reserve Lock - Dominic Gardiner (6/10)
The number 19 normally plays as a blindside flanker, but for the second week in a row, filled in decently at lock. Played a sharp 28 minutes where he was effective at lineout and made all 4 of his tackles. Though he made just 1 carry, Gardiner ran 3 metres and beat 1 defender off it.
Reserve Loose Forward - Corey Kellow (6/10)
Played just 14 minutes when coming on for Grace, a move which saw Blackadder move to 8. Kellow got stuck in and completed all 4 of his tackle attempts, went forward with 1 metre and 1 defender beaten off 1 carry, while giving his all to the breakdown.
Reserve Halfback - Bryn Hall (7/10)
The number 21 had a far superior performance to the one he gave last week for a few reasons. Firstly, a quick-thinking try, secondly, 5 metres off 3 carries compared to no carries last week, while he also gave 28 very good passes and also 1 offload. Good game for Hall.
Reserve First-Five - Fergus Burke (6/10)
Initially bought on for Goodhue in the 52nd minute, this saw Mo'unga move to 15, Ennor to 12 and Fainga'anuku to 13. Burke grew into the game well, kicking smartly, while running 6 metres and beating 1 defender off 2 carries. Gave 3 passes and made 2 tackles.
Reserve Utility Back - Chay Fihaki (No rating)
Fihaki replaced Mo'unga, who had moved to 15. Fihaki won't be rated due to playing just 14 minutes, but it was great to see him get game time at a young age; he remains an entertaining prospect.