Crusaders fullback Will Jordan runs in one of his three tries against the Force on Saturday night.
At HBF Park, Perth: Crusaders 53 (Leicester Fainga’anuku tries 12min, 27min, 39min, Pablo Matera tries 45min, Will Jordan tries 49min, 59min, 69min, George Bell try 80min; Richie Mo’unga pen, 5 con) Force 15 (Jake Strachan try 15min, Fergus Lee-Warner try 43min; Strachan pen, con). HT: 8-18
Spare a thought for the Western Force, who were always going to be in danger of copping a Crusaders’ backlash.
Leicester Fainga’anuku and Will Jordan scored hat-tricks as the 12-times champions thumped the Force 53-15 in Perth on Saturday night.
Wing Fainga’anuku scored all three of his tries inside the first half to complete his second hat-trick of the season, boosting his competition-leading tally to nine, while fullback Jordan touched down three times in the second half.
Their try-scoring sprees ensured the red and blacks got their campaign back on track after last week’s lame performance led to a 24-21 defeat to the Waratahs.
* Live: Crusaders vs Force – Super Rugby Pacific
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* Recap: Chiefs vs Brumbies – Super Rugby Pacific
* Moana Pasifika lose nail biter to Waratahs 26-20 at Mt Smart Stadium
With All Blacks playmaker Richie Mo’unga back in the driver’s seat after an enforced rest, they were certainly better on a night they ran in eight tries to two at a venue the Force have now lost eight straight matches at.
Mo’unga’s running game played a hand, highlighted by him running around Byron Ralston and putting Fainga’anuku in for one of his tries, as he did his general kicking game.
However, not helped by the withdrawal of Oli Jager, Zach Gallagher, Mitch Drummond, and Dominic Gardiner on medical grounds – the Australian broadcast reported it was due to Covid-19 – they’ll still be unhappy with areas of their game.
That includes their start, after they lost an early lineout, conceded a couple of penalties, and a free kick after Mo’unga took off without tapping the ball.
But, on a night Cullen Grace was forced to play lock, things quickly improved after they trailed 3-0 early, sparked by Bryn Hall taking a quick-tap and Fainga’anuku bashing over a moment later.
After the Force pulled to within three points early in the second half, the Crusaders flicked a switch after outstanding No 8 Pablo Matera muscled his way over in the 46th minute.
Jordan then Ran Amok, highlighted by his 59th minute beauty, when he steamed out of nowhere and latched on to a George Bridge chip and scooted down the touch line.
It was without a doubt the Crusaders’ best attacking performance in recent weeks, with a significant reduction in unforced errors sure to impress head coach Scott Robertson.
As will his side’s goal line defense in the second half, and the performance of debutant hooker George Bell, who played the second half and scored the team’s final try of the night on the final hooter.
The big moment
Fergus Lee-Warner had the force believing when his five-pointer in the 43rd minute pulled his side to within three points.
Forget it. The Crusaders promptly rolled down field, before Matera blasted his way over. The visitors never looked back.
7/10. There were plenty of scratchy moments from both sides in the first half, but the Crusaders’ lit up the night with a scorching second half, running in five tries to dispatch a team which very nearly toppled the Blues a week earlier.
The big picture
For all the talk of the Crusaders’ demise in some quarters, the red and blacks made a statement with a much-needed bonus point scalp, one which keeps them right in the hunt for a top-two finish.
Their match against the Brumbies in Canberra next week is essential viewing.