Rugby: Draw 'fair result' for match full of errors

Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa reaches out to score a try. PHOTO: CRAIG BAXTER
Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa reaches out to score a try. PHOTO: CRAIG BAXTER
Neither forwards nor backwards.

The Highlanders took a sideways step in their second pre-season match of the season, drawing with the Crusaders 19-19 in Waimumu, near Gore, last night.

The match was littered with plenty of handling errors, thanks to the rain that fell in the early stages of the match, and neither side could get much continuity into its game.

The Highlanders looked dangerous at stages and, at 19-7 up a quarter of an hour into the second half, threatened to pull away from the Crusaders.

But they twice coughed the ball up right on the line and could not put away a pesky Crusaders team.

Crusaders winger Nemani Nadolo scored a trademark try down the left-hand side, brushing off the tackles to bring his side back into the game.

Then, right at the end, the Crusaders kicked for the corner, won the lineout and veteran flanker Tim Boys was pushed over in a rolling maul.

Richie Mo'unga had the opportunity to win the game with a reasonably handy conversion but he pushed it across the posts.

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph said he had mixed feelings from the game.

‘‘I don't know if it was a step up, step backwards or whatever. Both of us played overseas last week, the Crusaders were in Brisbane and we were in Hong Kong, and so it was ferocious at times and it was quite poor at some times,'' he said.

‘‘It was a typical pre-season game with lots of changes. It was a perfect day right up until kick-off, when it started raining. Both teams were trying to run the ball but it was being dropped right to the end.

‘‘I thought a draw was a fair result.''

He paid tribute to the organisers who he said had put on a great event and delivered a grand show.

Joseph confirmed utility back Richard Buckman was gone for the season because of a dislocated shoulder picked up in the first pre-season game in Hong Kong.

Buckman would have an operation in the next couple of weeks.

‘‘Richard is quite a unique player and he has played a big part in a lot of our success in the past couple of years. I feel really sorry for him, as he has worked so hard. We have plenty of options there and plenty of cover.''

Joseph said he was not sure whether they would look at bringing in some cover, as he had only learnt yesterday of the seriousness of the injury.

One of the candidates to replace Buckman, second five-eighth Tei Walden, made an early claim for consideration with a try yesterday after 10 minutes.

Marty Banks charged down an Andy Ellis clearing kick and from the resulting ruck, Walden received a nice pass from Josh Renton and broke a tackle to score.

The Crusaders came back with a try through winger Sione Fifita near the end of the second quarter to go ahead at the break.

In the second half, the Highlanders poured on to attack and after some attempts on the line, the ball went to Malakai Fekitoa, who broke through to find the line in a couple of tackles.

Less than 10 minutes later and some nice draw and passing by the Highlanders' backs gave an overlap to winger Patrick Osborne, who went over.

But this Crusaders side, which is well down on star power this year, did not throw in the towel and came back to grab the draw.

The Highlanders' lineout was good enough but the scrum was a mixed bag, sometimes in forward gear and other times in reverse. There was plenty of venom in the tackle ball area, as to be expected.

The Highlanders will finish their pre-season with a game against the Waratahs in Queenstown next Friday.

Their first game in the Super rugby competition is against the Blues in Auckland on February 26.

Highlanders v Crusaders
The scores
Highlanders 19: Tei Walden, Malakai Fekitoa, Patrick Osborne tries; Marty Banks, Lima Sopoaga con
Crusaders 19: Sione Fifita, Nemani Nadolo, Tim Boys tries; Richie Mo'unga, Nadolo con
Halftime: 7-5 Crusaders

Highlanders players: Three to impress

This guy with the ball in hand is a beast. Ran it up hard, made some huge hits on defence and was a genuine threat whenever he got the ball. The centre should leave his talking to the pitch.

The money man looked composed in everything he did. The Highlanders certainly have depth in the No10 jersey and Banks has plenty in his bag of tricks.

First hit-out for the season and Coltman started where he finished last year. Ran the ball up hard, and his throwing into the lineout - although there were not many - was, by and large, accurate enough.



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