BNZ Crusaders win 25th straight at home, with victory over Lions

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Image courtesy of Photosport - Official photographers of the BNZ Crusaders
In the opening game of the ‘Salute to Service’ round, the flood gates opened for the home side early in the second half, after they led 17-3 at the break. 

It took just four minutes for the Crusaders, who were fresh off a bye, to score their first try of the evening. Sevu Reece made his first of many impacts on the game, drawing in two defenders and offloading to Braydon Ennor who sprinted his way to the line. 

The Lions looked like they were about to strike back, but Lionel Mapoe was unlucky to be called offside and Richie Mo’unga, in his 50th Crusaders match, kicked the penalty. 

The visitors put plenty of pressure on the Crusaders in the first half, stringing a few phases together and forcing the home side to make some uncharacteristic mistakes in dewy conditions. Eventually Elton Jantjies kicked a penalty to get the Lions on the board. Their defensive structures held strong against the Crusaders, and at one stage they defended for 26 phases, before the Crusaders made an error. 

However, it was the Sevu Reece show in Christchurch. He scored a brilliant try in the right corner, bumping off three defenders, including Lions No 8 Kwagga Smith, to barge his way to the line and give his side the lead at the break. 
It didn’t take long for the Crusaders to stamp their mark on the game in the second forty. The set piece was solid for the home side and George Bridge was able to make the most of the dominance, scoring just after halftime. Very shortly after, Bridge teamed up with Ennor and was able to dot down for his second of the night.
Lions fullback Ruan Combrinck bagged the visitors’ first try of the game, scoring off an intercept in the 52nd minute. And although the Crusaders had already done the damage, Reece wasn’t done yet. David Havili made a great break, putting Jordan Taufua into space. He found Reece to his right, who put the ball to his boot and scored off a brilliant kick and chase.  

20 year old Ngane Punivai made his Crusaders debut off the bench, while his side are now just one game short of their club record of 26 straight victories at home. They’ll look to defend their home ground next weekend when they take on the Sharks. 

Scorers: BNZ Crusaders 36 (Braydon Ennor, Sevu Reece 2, George Bridge 2 tries; Richie Mo’unga 4 cons; Richie Mo'unga 1 pen) Lions 10 (Ruan Combrinck tries; Elton Jantjies 1 con; Elton Jantjies 1 pen) HT: 17-3
Match report courtesy of

BNZ Crusaders defeat Highlanders with clinical second half performance

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Image courtesy of Photosport - Official photographer of the BNZ Crusaders
Last week the Brumbies were beaten 36-14 after leading 7-0 at the break. This time it was the Highlanders who came up short. After leading 10-7 at halftime, the Highlanders simply couldn’t match the home side’s intensity in the second spell as the Crusaders crossed for five second half tries to win 43-17.
The southern derby is always one of the highlights of the Super Rugby season and it lived up to its billing in a high octane opening 20 minutes. Ben Smith was playing in his 150th match for the Highlanders and took just two minutes to celebrate the milestone when he crossed for the game’s opening try. It was just the start the Highlanders needed against the defending champions and showcased just what a threat Smith is on attack. Getting the ball at first receiver, Smith deceived the first line of defence with a dummy before laying on a step and pressing on the gas to make it all the way to the line. 

Despite missing regular skipper Luke Whitelock, the Highlanders were highly effective in the physical exchanges early on. The Crusaders were forced into making handling errors and slipped off tackles as the Highlanders took the game to them. A Josh Ioane penalty in the 10th minute pushed the Highlanders to a well-deserved 10-0 lead.

Having not tasted victory since round two, the Highlanders really needed to take every scoring opportunity in Christchurch but couldn’t finish their chances in the first half as the Crusaders defence scrambled well. The Crusaders had their first points in the 25th minute when Richie Mo’unga made a break and popped the ball to David Havili, who set up Braydon Ennor for a classic wingers try. That was to be all the scoring for the first half and the Highlanders would have gone into the sheds happy to hold a three-point lead.

In a carbon-copy of last week’s clash against the Brumbies, the Crusaders took just a minute to cross the line in the second half and didn’t let the pressure off as they surged to a bonus-point win. In all, the Crusaders scored five second half tries (including a penalty try) in a display which meant the Highlanders left Christchurch empty-handed. Although the Highlanders struggled to stick with the lift in tempo, it was the Crusaders' clinical finishing that kept the scoreboard ticking.

From Richie Mo’unga’s trademark cross-kicks, to offloads that always find the support player, to pressure at scrum time, the Crusaders took all of the scoring opportunities on offer to secure the victory. The win is the Crusaders' 24th straight victory at home and takes them to 34 points at the top of the NZ Conference ladder with the Hurricanes in second place on 23 points. The Crusaders now move into a bye week while the Highlanders face a big test against the Blues at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Scorers: BNZ Crusaders: 43 (Braydon Ennor, David Havili, Sevu Reece, Mitchell Drummond, Will Jordan tries, Richie Mo’unga 3 con, pen; Mitch Hunt con, Penalty Try) Highlanders: 17 (Ben Smith try, Josh Ioane try, pen, 2 con) HT: 7-10
Match report courtesy of

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