Crusaders apply power and precision to swamp Kings

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Saturday, March 19, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The Kings were, at times, enthusiastic but lacked the home side's execution and were unable to apply pressure beyond that they managed during the opening stages of the game.

By comparison the Crusaders, the competition's most successful side, demonstrated patience and know-how to quickly recover and unleash ball-handling, timing and tackle-breaking power to swamp the competition newcomers.

The Kings had given the Crusaders a reminder, during the first 11 minutes, of what impact a lack of attention could have when landing a penalty goal through first five-eighths Louis Fouche followed by a stunning intercept by wing Luzuko Vulindlu off a Wyatt Crockett pass to give the side a 10-0 lead.

The instant Crusaders response demonstrated the experience gulf between the sides. It came, as did so many of the Crusaders tries on the night, after some superb team handling as they probed gaps in the defences.

Typical of the Kings' frustrations was their failure to make the most of a sustained period with the ball in hand midway through the second half when they turned the ball over to replacement loose forward Pete Samu who provided a chance which replacement wing Jone Macilai raced 45m to score and bring up 50 for the Crusaders.

If there was one player who summed up the Crusaders effort it was No.8 Jimmy Tupou who made the most of a rare start in Kieran Read's absence. He was outstanding in initiating several outstanding bursts by the side.

For all that it wasn't the most complete of performances for the home team. They head to South Africa in the morning knowing they let in three avoidable tries but they reintroduced injured players and more importantly gained a key three-try bonus point and a timely confidence boost.

It was wing Nemani Nadolo who crossed for the first response, then as the Kings tried to move the ball again, flanker Chris Cloete wasn't able to pull in a high pass and waiting to take the rebound and race 60m for the second try was wing Johnny McNichol.

Centre Keiron Fonotia with a head of steam on can be one of the harder men in New Zealand to stop as Fouche found and after regaining his feet Fonotia was able to have a hand in the final set up for hooker Ben Funnell to cross. The response was complete with the home side out to a 19-10 lead 10 minutes after the Kings had led 10-0.

Nadolo picked up a second when convincing the TMO that a near subterranean drive at the line through a maul resulted in a 29th minute try as the Crusaders prospered in their quest for penetration through the visitors' midfield.

Nadolo and Fonotia were joined in their set-up work by second five-eighths David Havili five minutes into the second half who was fed an inside ball by Mo'unga, bumped past a defender to break into space and then fed the supporting Mo'unga in for a try which preceded him heading to the bench having scored 16 points by five minutes into the second half.

Hooker Edgard Maruttule caught the imagination when coming on as a substitute to score his side's second try demonstrating his power on the burst to get over after 51 minutes. The Kings were not helped when losing prop Schalk Ferreira early in the game to concussion.

Cloete crossed after 65 minutes but had little time to enjoy it as he was sin-binned with six minutes left for taking the Crusaders halfback out of play in front of the Kings goalposts.

Scorers: Crusaders 57 (Nemani Nadolo 2, Johnny McNicholl, Ben Funnell, Richard Mo'unga, Mitchell Drummond, Jone Macilai, Pete Samu tries; Mo'unga 4 con, pen; Ben Volavola 3 con) Kings 24 (Luzuko Vulindlu, Edgard Maruttule, Chris Cloete tries; Louis Fouche 3 con, pen). HT: 29-10