Another epic comeback for BNZ Crusaders over Reds
- Created: 12 March 2017
Ice-cool BNZ Crusaders playmaker Mitchell Hunt kicked a penalty after the fulltime hooter to stun the Reds 22-20 in Brisbane on Saturday night.
This victory wasn't without drama for the Kiwi side, and the sight of injured All Blacks fullback/wing Israel Dagg on the sideline was a major worry, but more on that later.
For this was a moment for Hunt to savour. The young man, in just his second start in the crucial role at first five-eighth, calmly lined-up an angled penalty from about 36m out and slammed it straight between the uprights.
Little wonder he turned and pointed his finger to the sky in celebration, as his jubilant team-mates mobbed him.
The turning point came when the Reds, who had bounced out to a 17-0 lead in the first 25 minutes, tried to keep the ball in hand during the dying minutes and were penalised at a breakdown when centre Samu Kerevi failed to release.
For the second week the BNZ Crusaders pulled off the perfect heist. They also hauled themselves out of a 21-point hole to beat the Highlanders in the previous round.
This win didn't come without its share of injuries - a worry ahead of their next game against the Blues.
Fullback Dagg, who buckled to the Suncorp Stadium grass with a knee injury as he scrambled to grab a kick, was joined by fellow All Black Seta Tamanivalu (hamstring) and Pete Samu (lower leg) on the sideline in the first half.
The Crusaders appeared to be major trouble when replacement flanker Jordan Taufua was yellow carded in the 69th minute, but they recovered to score a converted try to Bryn Hall - following a terrible fumble by Quade Cooper minutes earlier - and then held their nerve to give Hunt his chance to kick the winner.
Taufua was binned for swatting Reds lock Rob Simmons in the face with an open-handed slap that landed with all the force of a cross-eyed lover's kiss, but referee Will Houston, having consulted with his TMO, didn't hesitate.
That really put the Crusaders in a bind; having just been awarded a penalty for pulverising the Reds scrum they went down to 14 men and appeared shot. Not so.
BNZ Crusaders coach Scott Robertson made seven positional changes to the one that started against the Highlanders a week earlier, a decision forced by a series of injuries and a desire to rest ace tighthead prop Owen Franks.
Errors, some of them elementary and others a consequence of the Reds' gnarly defence, resulted in the Crusaders repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot.
Several times in the second half the Crusaders appeared poised to rip open the Reds, but, sure enough the mistakes cost them dearly and it wasn't just the young players who were at fault as the ball, no doubt slippery with sweat, popped forward.
Think the Crusaders and you immediately reflect on their deadly scrum, but on several occasions, when they had the Red pack frantically searching for the handbrake, they were penalised for technical issues by Houston.
One of the Reds hardest working forwards was veteran flanker George Smith, who aggressively lunged at breakdown ball and worked like a shepherd's dog in the tackle.
For the Crusaders centre Jack Goodhue was a tireless defender - despite one costly miss - and No 8 Whetu Douglas continues to prove a real worker.
Continuity on attack was absent from the Crusaders' performance in the opening 40 minutes, with the Reds fast defensive line and aggressive action in the rucks, where they were careful not to short-change themselves in terms of sending bodies into the collisions, proving extremely effective.
The Queenslanders could hardly be accused of being meek on attack, either, and the first try to centre Samu Kerevi immediately followed the departure of the forlorn Dagg.
Kerevi turned his shoulders square to the sideline prior to blasting through the desperate tackle of opposite Goodhue to score, and provided the all-valuable assist for the next effort by wing Eto Nabuli.
A charge through Codie Taylor's defensive effort led to Kerevi bolting into space and he flung a wide pass to his left to find the delighted Nabuli.
The BNZ Crusaders were far from idle with the ball, the biggest issue being their inability to hold it for repeat sets and it required a long kick by wing Digby Ioane, which was collected by chasing halfback Mitchell Drummond who used every fibre of his wiry frame to force his way over the line.
BNZ Crusaders 22 (Bryn Hall 2, Mitchell Drummond tries; Mitchell Hunt pen, 2 con)
Queensland Reds 20 (Samu Kerevi, Eto Nabuli tries; Quade Cooper 2 con, 2 pen) HT: 7-20.
Match report courtesy of www.stuff.co.nz - Richard Knowler