Mataele Shines For Crusaders

The Crusaders’ 40-14 win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires yesterday morning has transported them to the top of the New Zealand conference in Super Rugby. Wings George Bridge and
09 Apr 2018 10:00
Mataele Shines For Crusaders
Crusaders winger Manasa Mataele runs through the Jaguares defence during their Super Rugby clash at Estadio Jose Amalfitani in Buenos Aires, Argentina on April 7, 2018. Mataele scored twice as Crusaders romped to a 40-14 win to top the New Zealand conference. Photo: Zimbio

The Crusaders’ 40-14 win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires yesterday morning has transported them to the top of the New Zealand conference in Super Rugby.

Wings George Bridge and Fiji-born Manasa Mataele each scored two tries as the Crusaders also nabbed a bonus point in an edgy encounter at Velez Sarsfield.

Now, with five wins from seven games, the Crusaders have leap-frogged the Hurricanes (who have played only six games) to the head of the Kiwi conference on 24 points. The Crusaders have the bye next weekend.

In addition to having a clutch of All Blacks still on the injured list – and it appears prop Joe Moody may have to extend his stay in the casualty ward after he broke his finger in club footy on Saturday – the Crusaders were without Scott Barrett, Seta Tamanivalu and Taufua for this fixture at Velez Sarsfield.

This game was a mixture of good and bad. Turnovers and silly penalties frustrated both sides, but flashes of brilliance from the backs – and Mataele was among the best on the field – lit-up things up to keep the vocal crowd entertained.

The opening 14 minutes provided the majority of the fun in the first half, with left wing Bridge snaring two tries in contrasting fashion. The first required a neat dive into the corner after receiving a long pass by Bryn Hall, and the second came after the left wing scooped up a loose ball deep inside his own half and scooted past the stunned Jaguares men to score under the bar.

Five minutes later a tremendous defensive effort, in which the Crusaders held firm for 29 phases as the Jaguares poked and prodded for chinks in the tackle line, signalled the start of a stodgy period loaded with turnovers, inaccurate kicking and sluggish chasers.

Then Jaguares lock Tomas Lavanini decided to liven things up a touch. A chap who carries the reputation for being a recidivist offender regardless of how often he gets censured, Lavanini gave away a penalty in the 33rd minute when he whacked Mitchell Hunt with a no-arms tackle.

It was terribly malicious, but the damage was done. And the Jaguares were to pay dearly. Fast delivery off the top of the lineout just 7m from the line resulted in Codie Taylor feeding left wing Mataele, who shot through the surprised Jaguares tacklers to score.

Hunt’s conversion increased the buffer to 19-0.

Things also got a touch toey in the first spell. In addition to Lavanini clipping Hunt, the latter also displayed his annoyance earlier when Nicholas Sanchez rammed a forearm into his head after driving the playmaker into touch.

Not that the Crusaders used it as an excuse to lose their heads. Despite having just 33 per cent of the territory and 40 per cent of possession, and being forced to make 91 tackles to their opponents’ 41, the New Zealanders were firmly in control as they sucked the energy drinks at halftime.

Mataele provided a fine assist in the lead-up to Hunt’s try in the second half, as the Crusaders re-organised themselves after conceding a five-pointer to Joaquin Tuculet.

With little room to move near the sideline, he beat three tacklers – and the fend on Sanchez was a ripper – and freed his arms to put Hunt in for the easiest runs to the line.

The turning point came in the 66th minute. A tremendous defensive scrum from the Crusaders resulted in a turnover and eventually Ryan Crotty prospered when he charged down a clearing kick at the other end of the park to score.



Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani takes on the Reds at the GIO Stadium in Canberra on April 7, 2018. Photo:  Zimbio

Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani takes on the Reds at the GIO Stadium in Canberra on April 7, 2018. Photo: Zimbio

Reds coach Brad Thorn blasted his side’s performance as “immature” after Queensland blew a 15 point lead to lose 45-21 to the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday night.

After starting his tenure with three wins from five games, Thorn’s rebuilding job at the Reds was well and truly ahead of schedule. And at 15-0 up midway through the first half it appeared the Reds were on their way to another win.

Their forwards were dominating the gain line and their powerful midfield combination of Samu Kerevi and Chris Feauai-Sautia were brushing away tacklers at will. But a series of penalties and a yellow card late in the first half to Feauai-Sautia changed the momentum of the match.

The Brumbies scored 38 unanswered points, including seven straight tries, to record a bonus point victory.

“I thought it was an immature performance from our team,” he told Fox Sports.

“Coming off the bye, I felt we were a little bit flat in the warm-up perhaps. We started the game well, but when you get in those strong positions that’s when you need to keep putting the pressure on and, I guess, keeping your foot on the throat.

“Credit to the Brumbies, they chipped their way back into the game and the momentum swung which it does in professional footy. In the end, the scoreline is pretty disappointing.

“There’s some learning out there, there’s some learning for our group.”

Thorn said the Reds couldn’t blame the yellow card for their loss.



Hurricanes 38-37 Sharks, Sunwolves 29-50 Waratahs, Chiefs 21-19 Blues, Brumbies 45-21 Reds, Lions 52-31 Sharks, Jaguares 14-40 Crusaders
– Edited by Osea Bola





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