What did we take out of the Waratahs' tough trip to Christchurch?
1. Tasman gulf
New Zealand is only a three-hour plane flight from Australia’s east coast but it seemed like worlds away on Friday night. The Waratahs fought hard but even under heavy rain, the Crusaders dominated with their skills. When defence was required, the Crusaders had the edge as well. Despite having the majority of the possession, the Canterbury side racked up 117 tackles to the Waratahs’ 72, a statistic that told the story of the night.
2. Wake up Tahs
The Crusaders could very nearly had three tries in the opening 15 minutes in Christchurch on Friday night, a worrying sign for the Waratahs. They have struggled at times with getting off the mark, no more so than against the Highlanders in round three when they surrendered 30 points to start the match. This wasn’t nearly as intimidating a tally but that they coughed up two tries within 10 minutes of the kick-off was a bow to any possible momentum.
3. Revenge of the winger
It’s been a while since Zac Guildford has donned a Waratahs jersey but he made his chance count on Friday night, returning to his old side. Guildford came on with ferocity midway through the second half and scored a try less than five minutes after coming on. It was that try that denied his former teammates a crucial bonus point, which would have given them some space on top of the New Zealand conference. While losses are never fun, that might have been a silver lining for Guildford.
Zac Guildford trying so hard not to break into a grin there, but lovely little finish. #CRUvWAR— Calum Gillon (@C_Gillon) May 20, 2016
4.Cooking without gas
Whether it was the loss of Kurtley Beale or the quick fire start from the Crusaders but they just didn’t quite gel. Their lineout was solid but they struggled to deliver ball to their backs early and NSW’s attack lacked the spark it has shown in recent weeks, with the exception of Israel Folau. It seemed in some ways like the backline over compensated for the absence of Beale, with Bernard Foley looking to create a score whenever he had the chance. New combinations take time to gel and they’ll need to sort it out by next weekend, when they host the Chiefs.
5. Much-loved Crusader earns his plaudits
Crusaders halfback Andy Ellis notched his 150th Crusaders match on Friday night and the reaction of the home crowd when he was replaced, said it all about the respect for the club legend. Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder said earlier in the week how much it would mean for the Crusaders to deliver for the veteran and they did it in style. Waratahs captain MicHael Hooper even paid his congratulations to the scrumhalf in his post-match interview. Sometimes being a nice guy helps.