No worries in the wet for Crusaders

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Friday, March 23, 2018    Getty Images

Coming off losses away from home to the Hurricanes and Highlanders, the Crusaders would have been thankful to return to AMI Stadium to take on a Bulls side that had lost its last eight games in New Zealand and hadn’t won in Christchurch since 1996.


But the Bulls have displayed a new-found attacking confidence under former All Blacks coach John Mitchell this year and wasted no time trying to find the try-line.

In an impressive opening ten minutes, the Bulls hammered away on the Crusaders line and turned down three kickable penalties in favour of attacking lineouts close to the line.

The Crusaders are no easy nut to crack though and sacked all three lineout drives to ensure the Bulls came up empty handed from all their opening dominance.

It almost seemed inevitable that the Crusaders would strike once all of the opening pressure was absorbed. And so it happened in the 15th minute when Scott Barrett barged over from a line out drive close to the Bulls line.

It was a cutting psychological blow for the Bulls. They had completely dominated possession and territory in the opening 15 minutes but found themselves 7-0 down on the scoreboard against the defending Super Rugby champions.

The Crusaders had conceded a high number of penalties during the Bulls dominant opening stages and a Tim Perry high shot in the 25th minute was one infringement too many as the Crusaders prop was shown a yellow card. 

The one-man disadvantage didn’t affect the Crusaders as Codie Taylor went over all too easy from a line out drive close to the Bulls line.

It seemed scarcely believable that the Crusaders found themselves up 14-0 after 30 minutes despite enjoying only 30 percent of possession and territory and with a man off the field.

The Bulls were demoralised and needed something special. It came through exciting wing Travis Ismaiel who pounced on a loose ball from a twisted scrum and scythed through the Crusaders defence to make it 14-7.

The Crusaders midfield of Ryan Crotty and Jack Goodhue were impressive on defence by shutting down the dangerous Bulls combination of Jesse Kriel and Burger Odendaal. But it was with ball in hand where Goodhue really made his mark. Tries in the 38th and 48th minute to Goodhue stretched the Crusaders out to a 28-7 lead and there was not to be any big comeback from the Bulls as the weather set in at AMI Stadium.

Replacement Bulls loose forward Marco van Staden scored from a rampaging run to in the 70th minute to take away the Crusaders three-try bonus point advantage.

With every point crucial in the New Zealand conference, the Crusaders lifted the tempo and grabbed their bonus point advantage back when George Bridge laid on a fancy finish following a Mitch Hunt cross kick.

The 33-14 victory lifts the Crusaders to the top of the New Zealand conference on 15 points ahead of their tour of South Africa and Argentina to play the Lions and Jaguares.

Crusaders 33 (Scott Barrett, Codie Taylor, Jack Goodhue 2 tries, Mitch Hunt 4 con) Bulls 14 (Travis Ismaiel, Marco van Staden tries, Handre Pollard 2 con)
HT: 21-7