Crusaders dominate possession, territory

The Crusaders dominated the ball, forcing the Highlanders to make 78 more tackles. Photo: Getty...
The Crusaders dominated the ball, forcing the Highlanders to make 78 more tackles. Photo: Getty Images
Sometimes the statistics lie. Sometimes they don’t.

It was the latter on Saturday night at Forsyth Barr Stadium as the Crusaders beat the Highlanders 40-20.

The Crusaders, as they often do, just squeeze teams relentlessly and grind out the win.

The Crusaders had all the possession.

Twice as much as the Highlanders.

In the second half, when it was close for the majority of the period, the Crusaders had more than 75% of ball and territory.

The Highlanders barely had a sniff and struggled to get anything going on attack.

Eventually, that weight of possession told as two late tries in the final four minutes blew out the score.

The side was not helped by a rather naive performance by referee Mike Fraser and a loss of momentum at times.

Highlanders first five-eighth Mitch Hunt said it was a tough game.

"There were some patches there where we had some fantastic defence and phases to hold them off, on our line. Get turnovers and get back to halfway.

But against the Crusaders team if they hold the ball they score tries," he said.

"You are playing a top-quality side so you have to be on. Back-to-back errors allowed them to hold it and get field position and get points.

"It doesn’t feel like it [a 20-point loss]. But I suppose the last 10 minutes in when the Crusaders are at their best.

"They pounce on games and opportunities and turn it into a try. They are such small things and they score from them.

"But we have to focus on ourselves. If you think where we were at the start of the year, we have made massive, massive strides. They are the benchmark ... but we can get to a really good place."

The Highlanders did not start well and were down 8-0 after 12 minutes.

But they got some ball and, after making metres off the ruck, the ball went to loose forward Shannon Frizell, who busted a tackle and went over in a melee of players.

A few minutes later from an overthrown lineout, halfback Aaron Smith cut through which led to a try in the corner by Ngane Punivai.

The Highlanders had no ball in the second half and when winger Jona Nareki bombed a try quarter of an hour into the second half, that was the Highlanders’ last chance.

Frizell and Smith played well for the Highlanders and Liam Coltman had an impressive 50 minutes.

But having to make 78 more tackles than their opponent eventually became too much for the Highlanders.


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