Ahh... that's more like it! Not dominating the table and winning by 1 point... these are the Crusaders we know and love!
Was a very good game considering the conditions, and the Otago come back. But then I suppose the score has something to do with my overall contentment.
The only match-up to dwell on is the number 9s, and it looked like Meg was off to a flyer. Those kicks he made were most impressive, who needs young upstart 1st 5/8s when you've got an old surfie?
I didn't think that Kelleher was 100%, he was hacking like an old ram before kick-off. I don't care how much mucus you manage to get rid of, the blasted stuff always seems to come back with mates, which probably slowed him down a bit. So
On the subject of Meg's kicks it was especially hard to tell who was actually playing # 10 for the Crusaders. Especially with Aaron Mauger first-up during the attacking phases.
Of course when Carter did first get the ball he managed to fumble it, which is never a good look. But he did manage a try and pulled off some blinding tackles (settle... I'm not talking Richard Loe here) including an especially fine one on Anton Oliver in the 2nd half.
The forwards seemed very evenly matched, although a lot of the set pieces leaned the way of the Highlanders. I was only going to mention the lineouts, but the scrums had their moments as well. This game had more pushing and shoving in the lineouts, and scrums for that matter, than I have seen this season. It looked more like a South African derby!
It was another indication of the evenness of the packs.
One thing that I was really happy to see was the number of turnovers claimed by Crusader forwards diving on loose ball. There has been some doubt about the legality of such a move in recent years, but it is a sure fire way of controlling a wet ball.
The only person who didn't try it and I thought should, was Meg. But you can hardly fault
There was an awful lot of kicking, and some fairly aimless offensive kicks. Everyone (other than guns like Mehrts) seems to need at least one pick-and-go to decide where to kick to. I know that this isn't an instinctive skill, but I would think that coaches would do some work on the speed of decision making, especially when the result is a kick with no-one chasing or competing for it.
Special thanks to Willie Walker for dropping that sitter mark, and to
There were some especially flat and well timed passes being thrown, and most unfortunately seemed to be by the Highlanders. I thought that Rangi MacDonald had a good run, a lot more convincing, fluid and involved than the last couple of games. With Cullenís recent form he would have to, to regain ABís selection.
There is still something rotten in the Crusaders 5/8th, and I don't see why Merhts missing should be the sum of it, or why it should suddenly disappear when he returns. They have retained the deeper line that works well to give either Mauger or Carter a bit more time. Of course this makes them look more pedantic than most of the other teams they are playing.
Admittedly the other teams have had more than useful backs. It is a niggling thing for me really, and I would like it to go away right now!
On that subject I must also say a word about Paul Honiss... Drop-kick!
Who would be a ref?!?
Really... he did a fairly good job overall, playing a good number of his obscure rule cards (always good for brownie points with your refing mates). He let himself down in a couple of instances with percentage refereeing.
A perfect example was illustrated by Honissís ruling that Brad Thorn joined a lineout before it had broken up. The mere fact that two Highlanders had already done the same, was beside the point, as Paul was concentrating so hard on the R&Bs that he didnít see them.
You would think that a ref at this level could learn to keep both eyes open!
The best thing about Mr. Honiss is that he is "jenny on the spot" (hem... I was just trying to be non-gender specific, but for PH is does seem to work!-) he was in the best position to judge the tries, which certainly saves the video referee having to put down his pint.
He was able to ďpingĒ a few forward passes and a couple of obstruction/accidental offside infringements. It takes a bit of stamina to race around the field after those young bucks, and have enough air left to power the brain and blow the whistle.
Iím afraid to think how well I could manage, but I think that my referee's mic would just pick up a litany of "breathe in, breathe outĒ!
So well done Mr. Honiss - you refereed a fine win by the Cantabs!
BTW: Nice copperhop ale Jules...