The general gist heading into this match was that the Reds should have spent more time on mad Monday planning than video review, because it was clear the Crusaders would be heading to Hamilton next week. When it’s put that way, a trip to the Tron is not usually this hard fought for, but that was what we were here for, so onto the game.
First points of the match came from a penalty mid-field for a Reds indiscretion at the breakdown. This was calmly slotted by Dan Carter and as he threw his kicking tee into the crowd, it dawned on the Reds that this was not a regular season game.
From the restart, Dom Shipperley’s jaw attempted to tackle Isreal Dagg. Dom’s jaw came off second best and it looked like he was going to have to leave the field, though he was able to continue.
The Reds scrambling defence highlighted in Matt’s article this week was on full display as the Crusaders continued to pile on the pressure with James Slipper making a great try saver in the last line. The attack kept on and the referee was forced upstairs, with no try ruled. A five-metre scrum to the Crusaders kept the pressure on and eventually took its toll with Ryan Crotty going through with a wonderfully worked first phase play. The conversion was a no brainer and the Crusaders led 10 nil after 10 minutes.
The Crusaders managed to turn the ball over at scrum, but a couple of phases later the Reds turned it back. A penalty for not releasing the tackled player gave the Reds the first chance at points and despite the Christchurch public acting like morons, Quade converted the penalty to points making the score 10-3 in favour of the home team.
The Reds had another penalty chance shortly after, but the distance (and direction) got the better of Ben Lucas and the score remained the same. The favour was returned as Dan Carter also missed a shot, this one dropping just under the post, before a scrum penalty gave Carter another shot which he knocked straight over. The Reds returned fire with a breakdown penalty giving Quade a shot which he put over making the score 13-6 after 25 minutes.
The famous Reds defence talked about earlier had left the field when a devastating run from one of the Whitelocks put them on the back foot leaving simple numbers and ball through hands saw Dan Carter cross for a five-pointer. He was unable to convert the try but the score was an ominous 18-6 half an hour in.
The Crusaders’ enthusiasm was giving the Reds troubles all over the field, with penalties coming at the breakdown with the Reds giving away another one in the time before halftime which Carter kicked. But that wasn’t the end of it.
From a scrum they attacked hard and the TMO was called upon after the half time hooter, but no points were awarded and they went to the sheds 21-6. It was going to take a big half-time talk from Link to turn this one around.
The second half started and it was clear neither team wanted to play in their own half and the kicking game eventually ended with Quade taking a shot at goal after the Crusaders were caught offside (no, Richie wasn’t on yet). He missed the goal though and the scores remained the same. The Reds were getting their rhythm and they started to work the Crusaders line. Another penalty was awarded and this one was kicked.
The Crusaders must have seen this rising confidence and flexed their muscles. A great offload from Wyatt Crockett, who was put in a gap by Dagg, went to Matt Todd and eventually found its way to Tom Marshall, who scored near the posts. Carter converted and the lead was extended to 28-9 with 35 minutes to go.
The injection of Radike Samo made an instant impact, and the Reds even had a try disallowed.
The Crusaders flexed again, like they were toying with the Reds. With the Reds hard on attack with their new found vigour, the Crusaders got hold of the ball and toed it downfield, the Reds scrambled, but it ended with a Crusaders lineout 15 metres out.
A nicely worked moved saw numbers and angles with Ryan Crotty crossing over for his second. Dan Carter converted it making the score 35-9 with twelve minutes to go.
Tom Taylor kicked a final penalty taking the score to 38 for the Crusaders.
The Reds ended their season being out-muscled, out-enthused and out-played. Looking on the brightside that should give Link plenty of time to work on getting the Bledisloe back.
Only thing left to say is: Let’s go Brumbies!
The Game Changer
It’s tough to pick, as the game didn’t really change, it was just the Crusaders rolling on. Everytime the Reds looked like getting their tails up, the Crusaders put a stop to it.
The G&GR MOTM
Radike Samo. The current Benjamin Button of the Reds squad (we haven’t forgotten Van the Man). Came on and made an instant difference. Strong running, hard tackling.
The Reds continued the “meh” from last week. Liam Gill was a stand out as he pushed claim to move up the openside pecking order. Radike showed he’s not done yet either.
Crowd: About 12,000 Boos.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Crotty 2, Carter, Marshall
Conversions: Carter 3/4
Penalties: Carter 3/4, Taylor 1/1 Reds 9
Penalties: Cooper 3/4, Lucas 0/1