Crusaders’ attacking running lines ‘transported in from a distant galaxy’

2011-03-29 00:00

BRITISH newspapers yesterday hailed the Crusaders and the Sharks after their spectacular Super Rugby clash at Twickenham on Sunday.

The Crusaders, outscoring the Sharks by five tries to four, won 44-28 and commentators and rugby writers warmly praised the high standard and pace of the rugby.

Robert Kitson, writing in the Guardian under the headline “glorious showcase for Super 15 quality”, said the occasion not only raised £175 00 in ticket revenue alone to help victims of last month’s earthquake in Christchurch, but will have done almost as much for the morale of those clearing up the mess.

“This was also the day when several fond, smug northern hemisphere assumptions were systematically torn apart. Long before the Crusaders wing Sean Maitland scored the decisive ninth try of a pulsating match it was equally clear that those who reckon the Super 15 has nothing to teach its European counterparts inhabit the myopic land of cloudy cuckoos.”

Kitson said that in the first half the Crusaders played rugby the like of which “the English domestic game is not familiar”.

“In terms of attacking running lines it was like being transported in from a distant galaxy.”

Kitson wrote that the contest was anything but candyfloss and said “it was a minor miracle the Sharks’ Ryan Kankowski played on after receiving a shoulder hit from Sonny Bill Williams which would have hospitalised most players”.

“In such circumstances the Sharks did well to stay in the contest at all. It is doubtful whether even England’s Six Nations winners on home turf would have lasted the pace.”

He praised the precision of the Crusaders backline, “which buzzed with intent”.

The Sharks, who were 34-10 down at one stage, had few doubts about the quality of the Crusaders.

“That’s the best side they’ve had for a while,” said coach John Plumtree. “They’re the benchmark of the competition. They’re devastating in midfield. Everyone’s going to have to lift their game to get up to where they are.”

The Sharks coach was critical of his team’s first half display.

“Defensively we were a bit naive in the first 20 minutes. They scored 15 pretty soft points and you can’t let a side of that calibre score tries like that. But I was proud of the way we came back at them. If we had scored again [going into the last quarter] we would have been right into them.”

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder said the contest had a little bit of everything. “I’d like to think it could happen again. I thought it was just superb. It was just a wee taste of what our competition is like. It was a fantastic first half, but in the second half it was helter-skelter rugby and I was very nervous watching as a coach,” he said of the Sharks’ revival.

“Carter was world class. Williams has adapted so well to the game — he has got the potential to be anything. He is a threat and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near him defensively.”

Mick Cleary, writing in London’s Daily Telegraph, said it was “breathless at Twickenham”.

“The action was fast, fierce and unrelenting, the brand motif of Super Rugby. They came in their thousands [35 094] and they liked what they saw: racy, pacy and a joy to watch.

“It took a long time for the Sharks to show their fangs, but when they did, notably either side of half-time when they scored three tries, they too threatened to sweep the opposition away. Their spirited fightback made it a real contest, the two sides going the length of the field for near scores in the closing seconds."

Cleary wrote that in midfield Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams have a double act “that is shaping up to rule the world. The efforts put in by so many [to arrange the fixture] should be applauded. The cause was worthy, the response terrific.”

He praised the Sharks for playing their fourth game in four countries over the past month. “They were dozy during the opening exchanges, but [in the second half] it was the Crusaders having to suck deep to draw in air. Suddenly it was the South African side on the front foot. It made for some riveting passages of play.

“The final whistle came as a relief only to the players. The crowd wanted more. Much more. Perhaps one day they will get their wish.”

The Sharks, bruised and battered, flew home overnight and now have four days to prepare for the crucial game against the log-leading Stormers at King’s Park on Saturday.

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