It can be hair-raising but Dan Carter says the Crusaders’ hectic game-plan is here to stay.
Fairfax NZ News
A worrying error-count had 15,000 fans fretting whether the Crusaders desire to stretch defences by playing at such a furious pace would result in the Bulls scavenging their loose passes and scoring break-out tries at AMI Stadium.
Yet Carter says the born-again Crusaders don’t care.
He says they are determined to not shrivel up and retreat into their shells – and it is an attitude he hopes lasts well beyond Saturday night’s 41-19 win over the Bulls.
“I would like to think so. We are not just throwing it willy-nilly to the width. There are times when we really wanted to be direct and attack close-in as well.
“There is a good mixture to our game-plan but our intent is to play an attacking style and score tries and that is what we did tonight.”
The contrast in styles at AMI Stadium was obvious: the Crusaders were often looking for opportunities and although they often punched the ball up the middle they rarely resisted the urge to eventually go wide.
The Bulls rarely exposed themselves to such risk. The uber-conservative South Africans attempted to gain ascendancy at the lineout and by utilising their inside backs’ kicking game. Their attack remained limited.
Handling errors in the first half fuelled fears the Crusaders were trying to be too clever and several times ran out of space.
Robbie Fruean looked to be haunted by nerves in his 50th match for the side; he tossed a wild pass and bumbled catches until exorcising those demons by scoring the opening try. Young wing Johnny McNicholl was put under pressure with several difficult passes but should have grabbed one in a defensive position.
In the second half, as the Bulls were run ragged, the Crusaders flourished.
It was something Carter, who moved to second five-eighth late in the match when Tyler Bleyendaal slotted into first receiver, noted.
“At the start of the game we were throwing the ball around and they were covering the front line really well and pushing us towards the sidelines,” Carter said. “But in doing that, and defending so much, they were going to tire at some stage. We have defended against it at training and know it is quite tiring and we could see they were in that position. So we just had to stick at it and we would slowly break them open. Which we did.”
While the backs scored four of the Crusaders’ six tries, coach Todd Blackadder heaped lavish praise on the pack.
Tighthead prop Owen Franks powerfully carried the ball and defended with vigour in the first half and his actions were reciprocated by his fellow tight five comrades.
Captain and No 8 Kieran Read was immense, his desire to cart the ball back on defence proving critical.