It was a jubilant home crowd that welcomed the Crusaders into Orangetheory Stadium on a Saturday afternoon, buoyed by balmy conditions and the return of Will Jordan to the playing ranks of their defending champions.
The Western Force had travelled from Perth for this one, Round 11 of Super Rugby Pacific ’23 and the first of back to back home games for the boys in red and black.
The home side secured a 48-13 bonus point win well before the 80 was up, running in eight tries versus the Force’s one.
The visitors opened the scoring in the 4th minute through an on-debut Max Burey penalty. Crusaders hooker Brodie McAlister crossed the line from a strong scrum in the 8th with no extras from Richie Mo’unga making the score 5-3.
Burey slotted another penalty before the clock ticked over 20 minutes, giving the Force back the lead. When it did tick over McAlister seized the opportunity off a rolling maul to cross for his second. Mo’unga pushed the conversion wide but regardless, the Crusaders took back the lead and didn’t let it go all night. 10-6
Some team effort from the restart, punctuated by impressive high ball and box kicks takes from Macca Springer and there’s a line out. Maul formed, pulled sideways and the boys are asked to use it. With the 22 in sight the ball shoots out – Cullen Grace to Will Jordan who pulled in defenders before offloading to Leicester Fainga’anuku. He dove and scored in the left corner. Mo’unga found his form and slotted the conversion. 17-6
The Crusaders exhibited their defensive prowess near the end of the first half, stopping Burey from closing the gap before oranges, the Force punished minutes later with safe hands through the midfield at the opposite end of the field finding Springer who cuts through the Force to touch down between the posts right on half time. Extras from Mo’unga and the home side head into the break 24-6 up.
The Crusaders hit the ground running in the second half, McAlister finding the line again off a rolling maul from the line out. Stunning work from the hooker to mark a hat trick. It was 42 minutes and the score was 29-6.
Leicester down for another a few minutes later after a collecting a huge pass from Will Jordan and Mo’unga finds the posts again to make it 36-6 after 50 minutes.
Andrew Turner, the front rower from the UK who’s found his way into the side through connections between the Bristol Bears and Sumner Rugby Club, makes his debut in the 50th minute – a huge and exciting day for him and his family.
Springer finds his second five minutes later after stepping around Force defense. TMO needed to make sure the grounding was good, and it was. No extras from Mo’unga and the score is 41-6.
Codie Taylor put his name on the board in the 62nd following some impressive set piece and pace from the Crusaders. Pick and drives right up and onto the line before Taylor goes low to break the Force and find the line. Converted by Mo’unga to make it 48-6.
As the minutes inched towards 80, the Force redeemed themselves through Jackson Pugh and some proper grinding forwards work. Burey converted before the final 10 and the scoreline ended 48-13.
The boys will be pleased to be once again finding the form that won them six Super Rugby titles in a row, especially in front of a home crowd, with afternoon footy, 20+ degrees and Will Jordan back in action.
Now we regroup for the Blues next Saturday. Have you got your tickets yet? The great North v South derby is coming to town and it’s not one you want to miss.