Super Rugby: Crusaders put rivals on notice as they await return of Sam Whitelock

The man with the most difficult job in New Zealand this week surely has to be Highlanders defence coach Glenn Delaney. 

One can only imagine what was going through his mind as he watched the Crusaders dismantle the Chiefs 57-28 at Christchurch Stadium on Saturday. 

It was carnage. And only the Highlanders – in Dunedin next weekend –  can stop the white-hot red and blacks from taking their record 19-match winning streak beyond a year. 

When the southern rivals clash at Forsyth Barr Stadium, it will be 364 days since the Crusaders last tasted defeat – a 25-17 loss to the Highlanders at the same ground. 

Jack Goodhue, left, and Will Jordan celebrate one of the Crusaders' nine tries against the Chiefs on Saturday.

MARTIN HUNTER/PHOTOSPORT

Jack Goodhue, left, and Will Jordan celebrate one of the Crusaders’ nine tries against the Chiefs on Saturday.

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Delaney’s notebook from the Crusaders’ shellacking of the Chiefs will be jam-packed, after they ran in nine tries to four in a match which at times resembled a glorified training run in front of almost 15,000 fans.

Resting flanker Matt Todd, prop Owen Franks and wing George Bridge didn’t matter an iota in what was a fine advertisement for afternoon rugby.

Wing Sevu Reece was excellent on debut, running in an intercept from a poor Damian McKenzie pass, playing a part in a couple others, and landing a hit on Chiefs fullback Solomon Alaimalo which could be heard across the ground. 

Highlanders defence coach Glenn Delaney will have his hands full preparing for the Crusaders in round five.

DIANNE MANSON/GETTY IMAGES

Highlanders defence coach Glenn Delaney will have his hands full preparing for the Crusaders in round five.

While they might be without prop Joe Moody (ankle) next week, coach Scott Robertson has the luxury of being able to select captain Sam Whitelock for the first time. 

Unbeaten at the top of the ladder with 17 points through four weeks, no wonder bookies are only offering $1.67 for them to snare a third consecutive title. 

But the Highlanders are always a formidable beast under the roof and, as Crusaders midfielder Ryan Crotty said when looking ahead to the match, the Highlanders will be “peeved off” after their last-ditch 25-22 defeat to the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday night. 

Crusaders wing Sevu Reece was named man-of-the-match after his debut performance in Christchurch against the Chiefs on Saturday.

MARTIN HUNTER/PHOTOSPORT

Crusaders wing Sevu Reece was named man-of-the-match after his debut performance in Christchurch against the Chiefs on Saturday.

The Highlanders appeared to have control of the match midway through the second half, only for the hosts to hit back and snatch the win via a Beauden Barrett penalty after the hooter had sounded. 

Highlanders No 8 Luke Whitelock’s decision to stick a hand in the ruck deep in their own territory can’t be defended, but there were a couple of other decisions which went against the Highlanders which raised eye-brows down the stretch, including an Ardie Savea steal when the ball didn’t appear to be out. 

Hurricanes midfielder Ngani Laumape, left, gets in the face of Highlanders centre Sio Tomkinson in Wellington.

ANDREW CORNAGA/PHOTOSPORT

Hurricanes midfielder Ngani Laumape, left, gets in the face of Highlanders centre Sio Tomkinson in Wellington.

Regardless, it’s the Hurricanes who sit second in the New Zealand conference with 13 points, a total you’d fancy to increase after they visit the Chiefs in Hamilton in round five. 

Yes, back to the Chiefs, who can’t be let off the hook after a fourth consecutive defeat, which surpassed their previous worst loss to a Kiwi opponent (50-18 loss to Crusaders in 2005). 

Head coach Colin Cooper clearly needs to find answers, and quick, with away games against the Bulls and Jaguares looming after they host the Hurricanes on Friday night. 

Dead last in the competition with one pitiful bonus point, they’re making the ordinary Blues look good.

Speaking of the Auckland-based franchise, they finally got a win in the can, but beating the Sunwolves 28-20 at home isn’t going to make anyone stand up and take notice. 

Wing Rieko Ioane bagged all four tries for the Blues, who now get a week off before hosting the Highlanders in the first match of round six. 

Elsewhere, noise continues to build across the ditch after the Will Genia-inspired Rebels turned around a 19-3 halftime deficit against the Brumbies to win 29-26.

The Chiefs have one competition point to show for four weeks' work.

KAI SCHWOERER/GETTY IMAGES

The Chiefs have one competition point to show for four weeks’ work.

Unbeaten with a 3-0 record, we’ll find out how seriously they should be taken when they play the Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday morning. 

The Lions made a statement in round four, hammering the visiting Jaguares in a 13-try special which wasn’t close, despite the final 47-39 score. 

Highlighted by a Courtnall Skosan brace, they led 47-13 after 52 minutes and gave everyone a reminder of the attacking force they are. 

The Bulls, who are second on the Super Rugby ladder with 13 points, also made a statement by doing a number on the Sharks, 37-14. 

Rieko Ioane scored four tries to help the Blues beat the Sunwolves in Auckland.

PHIL WALTER/GETTY IMAGES

Rieko Ioane scored four tries to help the Blues beat the Sunwolves in Auckland.

First-five Handre Pollard continued his sublime start to the season, kicking five penalties, two conversions and a drop goal for a 22-point haul. 

Thanks the to Reds’ inability to hold on to the ball and turn a stack of late chances into points in their 28-17 loss to the Waratahs in Sydney, the Chiefs have company at the bottom of the ladder. 

If the error-ridden game didn’t hurt your eyes,  the terrible condition of the turf at the Sydney Cricket Ground should have. 

Hefty chunks of turf were ripped up at scrum-time, prompting referee Glen Jackson to stop the game in the final minutes, telling ground staff: “This is dangerous, this needs to be fixed.”

ROUND 4 RESULTS

Hurricanes 25 (Ngani Laumape 2, Ben Lam tries; Beauden Barrett 2 con 2 pen) Highlanders 22 (Aaron Smith, Sio Tomkinson, Liam Coltman tries; Josh Ioane pen, Marty Banks 2 con) HT: 14-8

Rebels 29 (Jack Maddocks 2, Will Genia, Marika Koroibete tries; Quade Cooper 3 cons, pen) Brumbies 26 (Folau Fainga’a, Henry Speight, Rob Valetini tries, penalty try; Christian Leali’ifano 2 cons) HT: 3-19

Crusaders 57 (Braydon Ennor, Sevu Reece, Will Jordan 2, Andrew Makalio, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor 2, Bryn Hall tries; Richie Mo’unga 5 con, Brett Cameron con) Chiefs 28 (Teleni Seu, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Jack Debreczeni, Mitchell Brown tries; Damian McKenzie 3 con, Debreczeni con) HT: 33-7

Blues 28 (Rieko Ioane 4 tries; Harry Plummer pen, con; Otere Black pen) Sunwolves 20 (Rikiya Matsuda, Uwe Helu tries; Matsuda 2 pens, 2 cons) HT: 15-13

Waratahs 28 (Ned Hanigan, Alex Newsome, Curtis Rona tries; Bernard Foley 2 cons, 3 pens) Reds 17 (Chris Feauai-Sautia, Samu Kerevi, Sefanaia Naivalu tries; Bryce Hegarty con) HT: 16-12

Lions 47 (Rhyno Herbst, Elton Jantjies, Kwagga Smith, Wandisile Simelane, Marnus Schoeman, Courtnall Skosan 2 tries; Jantjies 6 con) Jaguares 39 (Ramiro Moyano, Julian Montoya 2, Gaspar Baldunciel, Matias Moroni, Joaquin Tuculet tries; Joaquin Diaz Bonilla con, pen, Juan Cruz Mallia con) HT: 26-13

Bulls 37 (Rosko Specman 2, Jesse Kriel tries; Handre Pollard 5 pen, 2 con, DG) Sharks 14 (Jeremy Ward, Daniel du Preez tries; Robert du Preez 2 con). HT: 19-0