Written by Max Sharp.
The New South Wales Waratahs lost every single match they played in 2021, but have began trending in the right direction. I vehemently believed that all of the Australia-based Super Rugby sides would be facing utter annihilation at the hands of their New Zealand counterparts. This match though, it was the final nail in the coffin of this prediction. The Crusaders conceded 17 unanswered points in the second half, finishing the match with 13 men and a 21-24 loss. This performance was a massive referendum on the impact Richie Mo'unga provides them, so let's read through jersey number 1 through to 23, to see why they were such a different team without Mo'unga.
Crusaders Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - George Bower (2/10)
Sir John Kirwan announced he would clear out the Crusaders from the All Blacks' backline if he was coach. This scrutiny MUST be directed at the tight-five forwards though. Bower played 54 minutes, yet made just 4 tackles despite his side's 41% possession from the first half. Just 1 metre from 3 carries too. He has likely played his last test match.
Hooker - Codie Taylor (5/10)
Put under a lot of pressure and all three of the Crusaders' lost lineouts were from Taylor not throwing straight. Taylor ran hard; with 23 metres off 7 carries, also making 7 tackles. Not enough from him though; he looks exhausted from too much game time.
Tighthead Prop - Oliver Jager (3/10)
Will be lucky to remain in this jersey next week, just like Bower. Though Jager ran 3 metres and beat 1 defender, this was off 5 carries. He made 6 tackles, but was comprehensively outperformed in the ruck. Off for Newell after 54 minutes.
Lock 4 - Dominic Gardiner (4/10)
His small size for a lock was exposed badly in the lineouts and rucks. Gardiner ran just 6 metres off 3 carries, 2 passes and though he managed 10 tackles, he struggled to get over the ball. Gardiner isn't ready to be a starter for the team, he's only 20 for crying out loud.
Lock 5 - Sam Whitelock (7/10)
Though he was the team's best performer, Whitelock was no monster, he just had a 7/10 game where he did the basics well. Those basics were a team-high 13 tackles, 14 metres and 2 defenders beaten off 9 carries, 6 passes and 1 offload. Slowed ball well too, allowing for Matera and Grace's turnovers. The team was better when Whitelock became captain.
Blindside Flanker - Pablo Matera (6/10)
The Argentine veteran was one of few Crusaders playing well before he was yellow-carded. Matera ran 24 metres and beat 1 defender off 6 carries, making 3 passes, 8 tackles and 2 turnovers, but his yellow card for repeated infringements confirmed the loss.
Openside Flanker - Tom Christie (4/10)
One performance never usually defines a whole season, but this one will indeed hurt Christie's test level ambitions. 12 tackles is a decent amount, he was completely nullified in the breakdown though. Just 6 metres off 4 carries as well. An average game for him.
Number 8 - Cullen Grace (7/10)
Grace, like Whitelock, worked hard, but not enough to get the win. Ran 33 metres and beat 1 defender off 8 carries, delivering 11 passes and 12 tackles. There were too many occasions where he should not have passed though. The skip-pass from forwards is a tactic that needs abandonment, opponents are now reading it like a book.
Halfback - Bryn Hall (2/10)
The absence of Richie Mo'unga saw Hall's poor form continue. Didn't offer an attacking threat and passed too slow. It's commendable to see the 9 make more tackles (6 tackles) than the number 1, but that was the only good thing to say about Hall's game.
First-Five - Fergus Burke (4/10)
A missed opportunity for sure. This game could have been a brilliant opportunity for Burke to assert his authority on the game plan but he had an average game. Burke ran 6 metres, beat 1 defender off 3 carries and made just 15 passes; he wasn't confident enough to select carriers; Hall took on much more responsibility. Off for Hickey after 64 minutes.
Left Wing - Leicester Fainga'anuku (5/10)
Only 4 carries... but still devastatingly dangerous on attack. It's time to put Fainga'anuku in the 11 jersey for the All Blacks after he ran 30 metres and beat 1 defender off just 4 carries. Offered 1 pass and 1 offload back inside as well; he wasn't scared to play. Should have got more ball from his 9 and midfield. Didn't defend enough, only 3 tackles.
Second-Five - David Havili (7/10)
No. He did not have a bad game. He had an average one. Havili dropped a couple off balls but did the basics well otherwise, with 46 metres and 2 defenders beaten off 9 carries. He was also the only Crusader to break the line. 9 passes, 1 offload and 9 tackles (most of the backs) too, whilst not being afraid to compete at rucks, unlike the 4 of the tight five players.
Centre - Jack Goodhue (6/10)
Racked a few metres for his team with 52, also beating 2 defenders from his 6 carries. Goodhue's handling wasn't up to par after receiving poor ball from his halfback, his 5 passes weren't the best either though. 7 tackles could have been more as well.
Right Wing - Sevu Reece (6/10)
The backs really did do much better than the forwards. Reece ran as hard as ever, with 46 metres and 2 defenders beaten off 7 carries, while making 3 passes and 1 offload. 4 tackles was far too low, but he did at least make a try-saving turnover.
Fullback - Will Jordan (7/10)
It's interesting how some say Jordan had a quiet game, especially since he made more passes than Burke, with 16. 92 well-run metres and 2 defenders beaten off 13 carries, but became a victim of not having support-running forwards, like Havili did. 2 tackles wasn't good enough on the other hand.
Reserve Hooker - Ricky Jackson (6/10)
Played 20 minutes off the bench but should have come on earlier, the damage had already been done. Jackson was the only replacement forward to win a turnover, while his 4 tackles were due to a high possession rate. Not bad by any stretch.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Tamaiti Williams (7/10)
Put him in the starting lineup next. Made more metres (26) than Bower off 1 fewer carry, while also beating 1 defender. Only 1 fewer tackles with 3 as well, displayed far better mobility and ruck speed too.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Fletcher Newell (7/10)
Bought some much needed dominance to the scrum and demolished the Waratahs in this element of the game. Newell also scored 1 try, ran 10 metres and made 10 carries, while also making just 1 fewer tackle (5 tackles) than the man he replaced. Start him next week.
Reserve Lock - Hamish Dalzell (1/10)
Dalzell, who is Whitelock's cousin, didn't play well. He had run 6 metres off just 1 carry and made 4 tackles after just 14 minutes, before his second high tackle resulted in a red card. Social media appears to be scapegoating him, the team could have won with 15 men.
Reserve Loose Forward - Sione Havili Talitui (7/10)
The number 20 didn't necessarily have the best stat sheet, with 2 metres off 2 carries, 1 pass and 6 tackles, but his try off a driving maul was crucial. Displayed strong fortitude off the bench that many starting forwards appeared to lack. Good game.
Reserve Halfback - Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (7/10)
Only came on to make 19 passes and 2 tackles, but that's all he needed to do to hopefully make the selectors ashamed of their decision not to start him. Tahuriorangi must start in every single remaining game and PLAY THE FULL MATCH; he is the only decent passer in the Crusaders' halfback trio right now.
Reserve First-Five - Simon Hickey (5/10)
Was able to run well himself, but didn't necessarily add enough of the desperately needed communication to the action. Hickey ran 11 metres off 2 carries, made 11 passes and 1 turnover to go with a completed kick at the goal, this was in vain though.
Reserve Midfielder - Dallas McLeod (no rating)
The number 23 did not play, having sat on the bench without replacing another player.