The Waratahs had nothing to lose coming into the match against the Crusaders, playing in front of a home crowd on Saturday afternoon. It was a match of physicality and persistence, the Crusaders coming out on top 28-54.
In the opening minutes, a Crusaders lineout and beautiful support play up the field gave Mitch Drummond the first try of the match, converted by Richie Mo’unga. A break up field from Izaia Perese quickly put pressure back on the Crusaders, the home side earning a penalty kick to get them on the scoreboard.
Waratahs defence was strained as the Crusaders continued attacking, and the home side did well to hold up Fainga’anuku, though Jack Whetton was yellow-carded for playing the ball on the ground. 25 minutes in, Will Harrison nailed another penalty kick to close the score 6-7 to the Crusaders.
The Crusaders quickly extended their lead again with a break up the left wing. Again showcasing great support play, Codie Taylor earned his team another five points. Only minutes later, an overlap offered Sevu Reece a gap in the Waratahs defence, his converted try lifting the score to 6-19.
Harrison kept the scoreboard ticking over with a third penalty kick which was quickly answered with a converted try from Dallas McLeod. This put the halftime score at 9-26 to the Crusaders.
The Crusaders didn’t waste any time coming into the second half, as a break from Richie Mo’unga created pressure and gave captain Scott Barrett a scoring opportunity, extending the visitors lead to 9-33.
The Waratahs - with all the work to do, hit back out of a scrum, as Jack Maddocks took advantage of an opening in the Crusaders’ wall with just under 30 minutes left on the clock.
When Oli Jager was sent to the bin for ten as the home side built on their momentum, quick hands saw Izaia Perese over the line for a second Waratahs try in the space of a few minutes.
However, Crusaders centre Leicester Fainga’anuku was next on the scoreboard with a powerful drive, again finished off by Mo’unga.
A strong maul out of a lineout pushed the Waratahs right back to their own line, Bryn Hall shooting through the back to get the try. The conversion put the score at 23-47 heading into the final ten minutes. Will Jordan then showed his class as he pulled in the corner kick from Fergus Burke for another seven points.
The yellow cards continued to come for the Crusaders though, David Havili and Nathan Vella both copping one each in the final minutes.
The Waratahs continued to put up a fight, Alex Newsome having the final say finding space on the wing. The last-minute try put the final score at 28-54 to the Crusaders. The Waratahs showed persistence and glimpses of great rugby, though the Crusaders managed to stay in control throughout the match, coming out on top and securing an all-important bonus-point.
Crusaders 54 (Mitchell Drummond, Codie Taylor, Sevu Reece, Dallas McLeod, Scott Barrett, Leicester Fainga'anuku, Bryn Hall, Will Jordan tries; Richie Mo’unga 7 con) Waratahs 28 (Jack Maddocks, Izaia Perese, Alex Newsome tries; Will Harrison 3 pen, 2 con). HT: 26-9