Monday, March 26, 2012

Crusaders leave Christchurch with strike weapons in tow  James Mortimer - (27/03/2012)

While the Crusaders will leave the euphoria of a maiden home match in nearly two years behind them quickly, at least they head to the Republic with a little bit of their swagger back. 

Their 28-21 win over a gallant Cheetahs wasn’t the most complete performance, although credit has to be given to the visitors for taking part in a compelling contest, but the signs were there that the red and black machine was beginning to hum.

Injuries to the Cheetahs props (Lourens Adriaanse and Trevor Nyakane) forced uncontested scrums for the bulk of the second half, and it was clear that the Crusaders missed the first phase dominance and chance to impose themselves with their scrum firing throughout the match.

After being outpointed by the Chiefs and Highlanders up front early in the season, the Crusaders will be happy that they were able to get one of their key weapons again able to squeeze rivals in the scrum.

There was also the return of Dan Carter.

While it was clear the All Blacks first five-eighth was under instruction to be careful when kicking the ball, with all place kicking duties taken by other players, the crispness of Carter’s distribution game was apparent when setting up Robbie Fruean’s try.

So much of the Crusaders power is centralised around their decision making at halves, and with Andy Ellis is solid form, the future partnership of the All Blacks axis will be crucial as the Crusaders prepare for Johannesburg to play the Lions and a week later go to Pretoria to face the Bulls.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder said the trip to the Republic was coming at the right time.

“We can go to Africa now knowing we have a bit of work to do. We've got a win, we're back in the hunt," he said.

"Things are back to normal for us now. We can build on a strong performance, our scrum is back, we can do some tweaking with our lineout.

"It's come as a perfect time for us. We've got a captured audience, it's the first time we have really been away early on in the campaign and I think we really need it."

While the Crusaders have won ten of 13 against upcoming foes the Lions - and three from their last three - they have twice (2000 and 2007) lost in Johannesburg 

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