Clinical Crusaders destroy Fijian Drua

Crusader Sam Whitelock reaches for a try in front of a home crowd last night. Photo: Getty Images
Crusader Sam Whitelock reaches for a try in front of a home crowd last night. Photo: Getty Images
Crusaders 61
Drua 3

Christchurch turned on a crisp evening far removed from Fiji's tropical climate and the Crusaders showed the Drua no warmth as their expected mismatch played to script on Friday night.

A week on from their clinical victory in Canberra, the Crusaders celebrated their homecoming by going a long way to locking up second spot with a commanding bonus-point win.

It wasn't always pretty, no one could suggest the Crusaders were remotely tested and blowouts such as these do nothing for the appeal of the competition. The result, though, will be extremely valuable for Scott Robertson's men.

For now at least, the Crusaders move into outright second behind the Blues.

With the Brumbies to host the Blues on Saturday night, and one round to come before the playoffs, the Crusaders will be favoured to retain second position and secure home advantage for the finals.

Despite resting seven frontline players - Richie Mo'unga, Will Jordan, David Havili, Codie Taylor, Pablo Matera, Cullen Grace and George Bower – the Crusaders had no trouble outclassing the Drua as they ran in nine tries.

In the years to come the Drua will, perhaps, edge closer and hopefully become more competitive against Super Rugby Pacific's elite teams. In their maiden season, though, they are not in the same league as the Crusaders – as this match proved.

Two weeks ago the Hurricanes embarrassed the Drua 67-5 in Wellington. After responding to defeat fellow new entrants Moana Pasifika last week, this was another major backward step for the Drua.

The Crusaders settled into their work early with Leicester Fainga'anuku bagging the opening try – his 10th of the season – in the second minute.

From then on, Fainga'anuku was everywhere from the left edge and there was little let up from the relentless Crusaders as they piled on four first-half tries to lead 28-3 at the break - Tom Christie and Sevu Reece crossing for doubles in the match.

All Blacks midfielder Jack Goodhue was among the Crusaders' best as he continues to steadily progress his return from last year's season-ending knee injury.

From second five or centre, Goodhue performs simple skills so effectively he is easy to overlook at times. His ability to catch pass under pressure, to be selflessness and put others into space, will be highly valued by All Blacks coach Ian Foster.

The Crusaders showcased their depth with the inexperienced front row of Fletcher Newell, Ricky Jackson and Finlay Brewis largely dominating their duties while lock Zach Gallagher, who is yet to play an NPC match, stood out alongside All Blacks veteran Sam Whitelock.

While the Drua brought a commitment to the collisions throughout their attempted line speed was frequently exposed and they had no answer for the Crusaders ball retention. The Drua's set piece remains an ongoing concern, too.

Defensively, the Crusaders applied pressure to force mistakes and their breakdown work also gained several turnover penalties.

With a try and eight conversions Fergus Burke collected 21 points in a composed display in Mo'unga's absence.

Replacement props Tamaiti Williams and Oli Jager added punch off the bench and the Crusaders benefitted from a late accidental head clash, ruled to be a yellow card, to score five further second-half tries.

Knock off the Reds in Christchurch next Friday and the Crusaders will be well placed for another playoff push.

Crusaders 61 (Tom Christie 2, Sevu Reece 2, Leicester Fainga'anuku, Sam Whitelock, Fergus Burke, George Bridge, Braydon Ennor tries, Burke 8 cons)
Drua 3 (Teti Tela pen)

Half time: 28-3

- By Liam Napier 

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