Get the real bad out of the way first! The Crusaders where awful. In fact they where worse than awful. They where bollocks! The only shining light out of the game really is at least they've got the game against the pre-season favourites out of the way early, avoiding any crucial loses later in the season when it really counts.
The Crusader front row did OK I thought. The scrum looked solid and Somerville in particular looked quite mobile throughout the game. Chris Jack leaving the game early on was crucial. You cannot play a team like the Brumbies with 2 short locks. Blackadder has to be in combination with a Maxwell (who's injured) or a Jack, otherwise it simply doesn't work. Puts way too much pressure on the thrower and other options at the back of the lineout. The Crusaders lost a few balls from lineout time, but also snaffled some off the Brumbies so things weren't that bad in that department. The loosies where never in the game, although Thorne was robust. Even though he got penalised for over vigorious play at one stage and sin-binned, it was great to see him taking no crap from Gregan etc. The less said about Scotty Robertson the better!!!!!! Broomhall had a quiet game, but its hard to shine without the ball (a la Ron Cribb in the Blues v Highlanders game).
Now this is where everything went REAL bad! Started off with Marshall. Terrible. Mauger got crap ball as a result, and what ball he did get was either kicked aimlessly away or passed to someone else in a pedestrian way. He also made two crucial errors missing touch from penalty kicks which would have put the Crusaders in good attacking positions. Sounds silly in a 50 point thrashing, but mistakes like that could have made all the difference. Gibson and Ralph hardly saw the ball, but when they did made several silly knock-ons...and if they didn't see much ball our wingers certainly didn't!!! Although I'm quite pleased Vuninbaka didn't see more ball...the score could have been 70 otherwise! The only shining light from the game was Ben Blair. Didn't get much opportunity on attack, but his goalkicking was first class, and he made a couple of great tackles on defense for a wee fella.
Basically the Crusaders looked unprepared for this game. They where disorganised, slow, and probably lacking match fitness. Rob Deans had delayed their preperation by a couple of weeks to give the Canty AB's a longer break, so that could explain some of it. Also the Crusaders do traditionally peak later when it really counts. No excuses though. They where thrashed!
Andre Watson actually had quite a good game I thought. Its obvious the refs have been told to clean up the rucks on both the attacking & defensive sides, making sure players stay on their feet. Have no problem with that as long as they keep the same standards throughout the season. He made a couple of dodgy calls...never seen a waterboy penalised before!!! hahahahahahahahaha! He picked on Brad Thorne a bit as well...maybe someone had been talking in his ear about how League players are all thugs??? He was especially good at penalising the Brumbie obstruction tactics. Obviously as a result from that IRB directive. Good stuff!
The Brumbies however looked superb! Slick, professional and organised. Fully deserve their favourite tags, and are my favourites to take the title this year. Simple as that.
The GOOD part of the evening was definitely the performance of the Highlanders!!!!!! It was especially gratifying to see the Otago front row firing on all cyclinders. Its no secret that we at RugbyHeads fully believe that the Otago front row SHOULD be the premier front row in world rugby. They are that good. They've lacked the mental toughness in previous years. Hopefully experience (and a decent rest) has given them that toughness. All Black rugby needs them to be good. Somerville will be great backup for them in a few years time (he's very young for a prop).
Tony Brown and Taine Randall where other great options for the Highlanders. Randall looks set to take over the blindside AB role that really should be his on form, and Tony Brown is still the best backup to Mehrts.
The Blues suffered through a weak scrum, the scatter-brained and inconsistant Carlos Spencer, two slow and ponderous locks whom can't make the break-downs consistently throughout the game, and having Ron Cribb constantly put on the back foot through all of the above. Early in the season of course, but like the Crusaders not good signs.
The Crusaders won't win the S12 this year. Four in a row is just statistically impossible in such a tough competition. Hopefully over the next 2-3 weeks they'll start reaching their potential, but it looks like a midtable finish for the red 'n' blacks. Whose gonna step up from all the talk and front up from the other NZ teams this season?
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