Saturday Mar 12, 2011
The ground was temporary but the Crusaders' pedigree is permanent.
That meant the away-from-home-hosts mustered enough clout for victory to send the Brumbies to a third straight defeat last night in Nelson.
Had there been any other result, the nation would have been stunned even allowing for the Crusaders' fractured build-up and ongoing distress in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake.
So on a night when "local" lock Chris Jack wore the famous Crusaders' kit for the 100th time, his team brought enough of their stellar class to the match to satisfy the near-capacity crowd.
They were stunned early, watching Matt Giteau convert his own try though referee Garrett Williamson did miss a knock-on in what ended up being the Brumbies only try for the night.
A major Crusaders' beneficiary was right wing Sean Maitland who claimed four tries to equal the individual competition record as his teammates went through what looked like a variety of training moves inside him.
But perhaps the most eye-catching moment involved Robbie Fruean on defence.
The young centre is a bullocking handful of power and subtlety, someone demanding more than an asterisk in the All Black selectors' notebooks. His name should have been underlined last night after a moment of real resolve.
Fruean chased down Wallaby centre Adam Ashley-Cooper, who had nicked an intercept, in a thunderous 60 metre trail of backtracking determination, bulldogging him to the ground and denying the try.
The Brumbies have been dealing with numerous dramas after the axing of coach Andy Friend and successive losses to the kicking boots of the Rebels and Reds. Last night they ran into more general issues as they suffered against the all-round heat generated by the Crusaders.
The red-and-blacks struck a few first-half hiccups but struck back hard after the halftime energy drinks and scoldings from coach Todd Blackadder. He had barely taken his seat in the grandstand when Maitland was over for his second try after Daniel Carter's backline incision and offload.
Blackadder's chat of approval with his fellow spectators had only just finished when Sonny Bill Williams plunged over, slipping the scrambling defence after another Andy Ellis foray to the line.
Surely that pace could not continue. It did.
Maitland claimed his hat-trick slipping away from some sloppy defence, Carter continued his masterful kicking and in seven minutes after the break, the Crusaders had doubled their halftime score and claimed the bonus point. It was superlative stuff from the Crusaders, but very sloppy from the visitors.
It got worse when Maitland skirted around the flimsy defence for his fourth touchdown, a moment which became noteworthy because Carter had his only miss, from the sideline, before he was subbed.
In their last two losses the Brumbies were beaten by the boots of Danny Cipriani then Quade Cooper, but last night they were blown away by the ubiquitous talents of the Crusaders.
The losers' only consolation is they get four points for a bye next round while the Crusaders are working into ominous form for their trip to Carisbrook to meet the Highlanders.
* In last night's late match, No 8 Ryan Kankowski and Meyer Bosman scored late tries to snatch a 34-32 win for the Sharks over the Rebels, maintaining the South African team's unbeaten start in Super 15 rugby.
The Sharks, who hadn't conceded a try in three previous games, gave up four to the gutsy competition newcomers but scored four of their own, rallying from 25-13 down to post their fourth win from as many games.
By Wynne Gray