Crusaders wallop Fijian Drua 61-3 in Christchurch

PETER MEECHAM/GETTY IMAGES Wing Leicester Fainga'anuku scored the Crusaders first try against the Fijian Drua in Christchurch on Friday night.

At Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch: Crusaders 61 (Leicester Fainga’anuku try 2min, Tom Christie try 15min, Sam Whitelock try 28min; Sevu Reece tries 37min and 53 min, Fergus Burke try 47 min, George Bridge try 62min, Braydon Ennor try 70min, Tom Christie try 75min; Burke 8 con) Fijian Drua 3 (Teti Tela pen). HT: 28-3.

Yellow card: Selestino Ravutaumada 69 min

This could have been as pretty as an overflowing ashtray.

Instead, the Crusaders delivered a large bouquet to their hardy fans, who braved the frigid Christchurch air to watch their team score nine tries during the 61-3 win over the Fijian Drua at Orangetheory Stadium on Friday night.

Often, when a powerhouse franchise like the Crusaders sends out an understrength side against a struggling outfit such as the Drua in Super Rugby Pacific, you inhale deeply and mumble to yourself about searching for gold nuggets in a compost heap.

Because how many times have we watched a top side fail to produce a clinical performance in a game they should win in a canter, especially when they leave a bunch of their best players in the grandstand?

This could have been one of those occasions, with coach Scott Robertson electing to rest Pablo Matera, David Havili, Will Jordan, Richie Mo’unga, while Codie Taylor was nursing injured ribs.

But it was not. It was a largely entertaining performance and worthy of praise.

Captain Scott Barrett was transferred to blindside flanker, to allow Zach Gallagher to start alongside Sam Whitelock in the second row and Ethan Blackadder switched to No 8 where, it so happened, he combined with openside flanker Tom Christie to produce a high tackle count.

When the Crusaders kept turning up the heat on the Drua, who struggled to get any dividends out of their kicking strategy in general play, they dished up plenty of free-flowing footy.

It began with left wing Leicester Fainga’anuku, who was bristling with power and balance on attack and surely deserves to have a few extra ticks beside his name when it comes to All Blacks selection, providing an appetising starter when he scored in the left pocket in the opening minutes.

The Crusaders’ set pieces were efficient, their scrambling defence was enthusiastic and, much to everyone’s delight, veteran lock Whitelock ran a ripper of a line to score a fine try.

Fergus Burke, at first five-eighth in place of Mo’unga, succeeded with eight of nine conversion attempts and midfielder Braydon Ennor survived a head clash in a tackle from Selestino Ravutaumada to score a try a few minutes later.

Inevitably, that incident resulted in a yellow card; whether it was the right call is anyone’s guess – and given the current confusion about these collisions that should be no surprise – but against 14 men inside the final 10 minutes the Crusaders just kept pouring on the pressure.

Next over the chalk was Christie, and few could argue he didn’t deserve a plum to talk about over his post-game ginger beers.

That was the final five-pointer of the night. A nice way to drop the curtain.

The big moment 

The Crusaders didn’t dither. It took just two minutes for Fainga’anuku to nail the first try in the left-hand corner, and in doing so he and his mates in the local team’s colours let the Drua know they were in for an uncomfortable night.

Match rating

8/10

You can’t complain when a team scores this many tries. Accept it for what it is. If you want a closer result, search elsewhere. You won’t have to go far.

The big picture

The Crusaders overtake the Brumbies on the log, advancing into second place on 48 points. The Crusaders will remain there if the Blues (50) beat or draw with the Brumbies (43) in Canberra on Saturday night.

MVP

Christie rattled up 18 tackles during his shift. It’s always nice to acknowledge the workhorses.

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