BNZ Crusaders put 45 points on the Force
- Created: 24 March 2017
No last quarter heroics were needed by the BNZ Crusaders to quell a lively Force side 45-17 at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Friday.
The score couldn't hide the fact that this was a game with long periods of scrummaging inertia tying up vital minutes, with both teams having their moments in control.
Ultimately, however, it was the sheer finishing execution from the BNZ Crusaders, especially at lineout mauls, that denied the spirit of the Force in a seven tries to two victory and they extended their record of having won their last nine games against Australian sides while the Force's run of losses against New Zealand sides, in New Zealand, to seven.
Desperate to make a more positive start the BNZ Crusaders came out at as much of a gallop as their pre-game horses scoring their first try after two minutes, courtesy of a break at a midfield ruck by halfback Mitch Drummond. He found open space then linked with wing Digby Ioane who cleared out to score.
The Force made a strong surge to test the BNZ Crusaders defences and they managed to hold with the only concession being a penalty chance which first five-eighths and captain Jono Lance landed.
As if to ram home their intent to continue their start, the BNZ Crusaders put the scrummaging acid on the visitors with a series of scrums on the Force line which ultimately opened up a chance which saw flanker Matt Todd mark his return from injury with a try at the base of the goalposts.
The plan came a little unstuck moments later when Todd threw a pass that was intercepted by Force wing Alex Newsome who was untroubled in scoring the try.
But such was the mood in the home side that they made the most of a penalty chance to launch a lineout drive and while they needed two goes at getting across the line, it was blindside flanker Scott Barrett who crossed in the 21st minute.
More constructive Crusaders phase play kept the pressure on the Force and after a goal-line intercept Chance Peni had nowhere to move and a ruck formed. He put the ball behind him over the line, without pressing the ball, and prop Jermaine Ainsley delayed clasping the ball which allowed lock Luke Romano to dive in and score the try.
The Force enjoyed their own period of scrum control in the dying minutes of the first half when opting to go for tries rather than penalty goals and they were able to get Peni over just after the half-time hooter.
The second half reverted to a more usual pace of game and it was 10 minutes before there was scoring action from a Crusaders driving lineout maul with hooker Codie Taylor scoring before taking a rest from the game.
Impressive Force determination at the scrum as the game entered the final quarter saw replacement BNZ Crusaders loosehead prop Tim Perry was sin-binned as referee Rohan Hoffman lost his patience with the scrum. But it was the BNZ Crusaders who won the crucial scrum to clear the line.
In the latter stages light drizzle made its effects felt with handling errors occurring, but most notably affecting the Force.
Getting better field position, the BNZ Crusaders made the most of a tidying run on the blindside from a ruck by replacement hooker Ben Funnell to set up flanker Jordan Taufua on yet another rollicking charge in the game, and from the resulting play it was fullback David Havili who crossed for the try.
Funnell had his reward on the final hooter when on the back of another lineout drive he scored the final try of the night.
Scorers: Crusaders 45 (Digby Ioane, Matt Todd, Scott Barrett, Luke Romano, Codie Taylor, David Havili, Ben Funnell tries; Mitchell Hunt 4 con; Marty McKenzie con) Force 17 (Alex Newsome, Chance Peni tries, Jono Lance 2 con, pen). HT: 28-17