It's that impossible-to-document feature of the Canterbury Crusaders that enables them to pull through the really tough games. The Chiefs provided a stern test for Toddy and his boys. The determination and guts that has marked the whole of Canterbury rugby for the late part of the nineties & now the early part of the new millennium.
The match stats showed an evenness of position and possession. The difference proved to be the burgeoning talent of Aaron Mauger. The youngster who filled in so admirably in last years NPC potted as cool as a cucumber the drop goal to clinch victory. The Chiefs players & particularly Glen Jackson will be having nightmares for the coming week for many missed opportunities. A drop goal and a last minute penalty being totally stuffed up by the erratic No.10.
This wasn't a perfect performance by the Crusaders by any means. Drop balls, inaccuracies and missed tackles plagued them. Ron Cribb and Andrew Merhtens in particular had patchy days. Marshall again looks a little laboured and the spotlight will be on him in future games for sure. Its so annoying seeing Mehrts struggling to create space through a lack of time. Another to look a bit rusty was Leon MacDonald.
Toddy Blackadder of course led from the front. What an inspiration this man is. He must be a hot contender for AB captain, even if it is as a caretaker role for a season of two as we rebuild. If you wanted a good, honest, New Zealander leading the country whom you just KNOW will have the players behind him....how can you look past the man. All the crap that he lacks pace was fully exposed as being the bollocks it is with his breakaway try in the first half. Not many other locks show that kinda pace. It was created through Canterbury pressure in the Waikato midfield, balls lands in Toddy's hands. A burst of speed...TRY TIME!
The tight five again did the hard yards for the Cantabs. Hard nuts such as Glenn Taylor where eventually worn down. Greg Somerville is quickly becoming a powerhouse. With AB Greg Feek to come back into the team we again have enormous depth in the front row. Its quite unbelievable to think the Blues didn't want Slade McFarland as hooker, preferring instead the Southlander Davin Heaps!! Bizarre! Anyhow, stiff shit! I'm sure Slade will have loads to prove when he gets onto the field.
Our other AB's of Norm Maxwell, Scott Robertson and Reuben Thorne had strong games. All 'n' all a good start for the Crusaders. Keep in mind boys & girls it doesn't pay to peak too soon in this competition. Crusaders traditionally start slowly and finish strongly.
The Chiefs however do look good. They've been panned by the media in NZ & the TAB. Both don't seem to rate their chances too highly. I guess the loss of the high profile Lomu to the Hurricanes doesn't do much for the odd makers around the country. I think they'll do OK though. They look to have a reasonably strong forward pack with strong performers such as Glenn Marsh etc etc. Rhys Duggan still looks a better halfback option than Justin Marshall & with Roger Randall on the wing they have a potent attacking force.
Anyway the Cantabs have a bye next weekend... THEN IT'S THE BLUES AT JADE STADIUM!!! Bring it on!