The Crusaders are not everyone’s model rugby side. But they understand the basics needed to achieve victories and for that, they need to be admired.
They play to their strengths and age-old rugby maxims about accumulating points and creating mounting pressure on their rivals. The Highlanders felt that heat at set-piece and in the rucks where they conceded penalties to Daniel Carter’s boot.
He knocked over four kicks to convert the Crusaders’ impact before they changed tactics and grabbed their first try from a lineout drive.
Captain Kieran Read who ran with his old relish down the tram-tracks, sensed the Highlanders were flagging and went for the kill. It was a great decision and impetus in the Crusaders’ successful quest for a bonus point victory.
Soon after the break they made the same decision and Matt Todd barrelled round the side of a driving maul for his second try. In the background Read raised a fist in salute and not long after was in the midst of several miracle passes and another touchdown.
Israel Dagg, Read and Nemani Nadolo made and collected a batch of difficult offloads in traffic as the Crusaders ramped up their venom.
The benefits were rife. Coach Todd Blackadder was able to preserve his men and introduce others who needed work to keep them in match trim with a week off approaching for the team.
Those physical values were immense and so were the images the Crusaders delivered to all the finalists about their quest for another title.