The weather conditions in Christchurch are chilly! It's just 11 degrees, with a breeze making matters even friskier. Aside from that, everything is set up for a high scoring game of rugby. I'm sure the players will be looking to do plenty of running to keep themselves warm.
The Crusaders enter this match top of both the New Zealand conference, as well as the overall standings. The Highlanders have had a disappointing season so far, with only 2 wins from 7 games, leaving them fourth in the New Zealand conference, 5 points off third.
The last meeting between these sides was called off due to the tragic shootings in Christchurch earlier this year. Prior to that, you'd have to go back to 2015 to find the last time that the Highlanders beat the Crusaders at the AMI stadium.
Today's referee is Ben O'Keeffe, assisted by Damon Murphy and Angus Gardner, with Glenn Newman on TMO duty.
The Highlanders have made 5 changes to the side that lost disappointingly at home to the Hurricanes last weekend. Richard Buckman is ruled out with an achilles injury, while Marty Banks has broken a bone in his foot, meaning both miss out tonight, with Rob Thompson making his much anticipated return to the starting lineup and Josh Ioane taking back the 10 jersey. Elliot Dixon replaces Luke Whitelock, Pari Pari Parkinson replaces Josh Dickson and Daniel Lienert-Brown comes in for Ayden Johnstone.
The Crusaders have made 6 changes to the starting side that convincingly beat the Brumbies 36-14 last weekend. Makalio and Alaalatoa come into the front row in place of Ben Funnell and Owen Franks. Whetu Douglas takes Ethan Blackadder's spot at blindside flank with Braydon Ennor taking fellow youngster Will Jordan's spot on the wing. Sam Whitelock and Jack Goodhue return from their All Black enforced rest in place of Quinten Strange and Tim Bateman respectively.
HIGHLANDERS STARTING XV: 15 Ben Smith (C), 14 Matt Faddes, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Tei Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown. RESERVES: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Jackson Hemopo, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Sio Tomkinson
CRUSADERS STARTING XV: 15 David Havili, 14 Braydon Ennor, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Sevu Reece, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Whetu Douglas, 5 Sam Whitelock (C), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Joe Moody. RESERVES: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Harry Allan, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Will Jordan
Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the opening match in round 9 of the 2019 Super Rugby season. We are in Christchurch for today's match between the Crusaders and Highlanders.
It's Josh Ioane who gets the game underway with a deep kick off toward the Crusaders 22.
The Highlanders have a penalty just inside the Crusaders half which they have elected to kick to the corner.
TRY. HIGHLANDERS. B SMITH. 0-5. What a brilliant start by the Highlanders! Smith get''s it center field at first receiver, throws a dummy and slices straight through like a hot knife through butter! A try for the man in his 150th Highlanders appearance.
CONVERSION. HIGHLANDERS. IOANE. 0-7. Josh Ioane knocks an easy conversion over.
The Crusaders get a big shove on a Highlanders defensive scrum but they retain the ball and Ioane clears well.
The Crusaders are moving the ball around well but a couple of losse passes kill the momentum and the ball is eventually knocked on at the Highlanders 22 metre line.
The Highlanders win a scrum penalty and Ioane punts it to the Crusaders 40 metre line.
David Havili gives away a lazy penalty for straying offside and Josh Ioane will have the chance to improve on this already impressive Highlanders start with a shot at goal.
PENALTY. HIGHLANDERS. IOANE. 0-10. It's a smooth and steady strike that sees the ball sailing over the black dot.
James Lentjies gives away a penalty inside the Highlanders half, but the Crusaders are going for the corner. They'll have a lineout 10 metres from the Highlanders line.
The Crusaders will be very disappointed with that. The maul was well set but the ball is knocked on while moving it to the back.
Yet again, it's a handling error from the Crusaders. Already 5 from them so far, this time Richie Mounga knocks it on just inside the Crusaders half. Highlanders have a scrum in centre field.
Scott Barrett sees the ball poking out the back of the ruck and pinches it away on his own 22. The ball is shifted wide quickly for Ennor to clear into open space. The chase is good and Ben Smith is forced to clear.
The Crusaders are certainly on the back foot here. They lose the ball due to another inaccurate pass off the lineout and are forced back into their 22. Luckily for them, the Highlanders give away a penalty for not releasing and the Crusaders can clear.
Lienert-Brown looks up and sees a gap. He busts through and offloads to Ben Smith, who looks up and sees Faddes in space on the wing. He goes for the miracle ball over Ennor but the winger blocks the pass and turns the ball over.
Scott Barrett gives away an offside penalty inside the Highlanders 22, which they'll clear for touch.
TRY. CRUSADERS. ENNOR. 5-10. The Crusaders are working their way into this game now. They move through 8 phases, before Richie Mounga busts a couple of tackles, offloads to Havili who draws the last defender before putting Braydon Ennor over for the try!
CONVERSION. CRUSADERS. MOUNGA. 7-10. It's a good conversion from Mounga out wide.
Goodhue throws a no look pass and almost pays for it! Faddes intercepts and sprints it up to the Crusaders 22 but he's hunted down and loses the ball. The Crusaders clear but not out, Ben Smith carries it back, passes it to Walden who grubbers away. Havili fields it in his 22 and can finally put the ball into touch. Miracle chase down by the Crusaders, they've got away with one.
Josh Ioane spills a fairly easy box kick from Bryn Hall. He's lucky a Crusaders player doesn't pounce on an error. Play restarts with a Crusaders scrum on the Highlanders 40 metre line.
The Crusaders earn a scrum penalty which, perhaps unsurprisingly, they'll kick to the corner.
Fantastic defence from the Highlanders! The Crusaders attack looked menacing but Liam Coltman gets his hands on the ball 5 metres out to win a penalty.
Sam Whitelock somehow gets his hands on the ball at maul time but knocks it on. Highlanders scrum on the Crusaders 40 metre line.
Te Walden finds an enormous gap and glides through. He swings it out wide and it falls to James Lentjies. Fortunately for the Crusaders, the cover defence gets around and they tackle him into touch, 10 metres from the Crusaders line.
CRUSADERS 7 - 10 HIGHLANDERS. The hooter sounds but the sides play on. Crusaders carry it forward and lose it. Highlanders also decide to continue playing but they've lost it too. Crotty finds the ball, in acres of space, and eventually looks up to find Ennor on the wing. He looks to chip it over the last defender but Tomkinson catches it inside his 22 and takes a mark. He decides enough is enough and puts the ball into touch for half time.
The second half is underway with a deep kick off by Richie Mounga.
TRY. CRUSADERS. HAVILI. 12-10. Hammington clears but not into touch. The Crusaders carry it back and Goodhue makes a clean break. He offloads to Douglas, who runs at the line and throws an audacious offload to Havili. Sprinting on the ball, Havili catches it and canters over for the try!
CONVERSION. CRUSADERS. MOUNGA. 14-10. Richie Mounga adds the extras.
That is phenomenal from Mounga! A loose ball from the prop bounces awkwardly in space on halfway, but Mounga charges onto it and slices straight through the defence. He looks to chip it over Ben Smith but the bounce favours the veteran defender, as he gathers and dots it over. It'll be an attacking 5 metre scrum to the Crusaders because it was taken back.
A dominant scrum from the Crusaders wins them a penalty. Mounga will have a shot at goal.
PENALTY. CRUSADERS. MOUNGA. 17-10. The Crusaders lead is extended to 7 points with a solid kick from Mounga.
Read picks it up off the back of the scrum and hands it off to Bryn Hall who chips it into space in the Highlanders 22. It's a wobbly old bounce, and Tevita Li is forced to throw a speculative pass as he picks it up. This could easily have fallen straight to a number of Crusaders attackers, but it falls to Hammington who dots it down under pressure. The Crusaders will have a 5 metre scrum.
TRY. CRUSADERS. PENALTY TRY. 24-10. It's another monstrous scrum from the Crusaders! They are stopped illegally and the ref awards a penalty try!
The Highlanders win a scrum penalty on halfay. They've got to start chasing the game now, so Ioane kicks for touch and finds it at the Crusaders 22.
The Highlanders were looking good but Sevu Reece manages to rip the ball in a tackle which allows the Crusaders to clear.
TRY. CRUSADERS. REECE. 29-10. Huge mistake from the Highlanders. A poor Hammington pass is knocked on by Walden. The Crusaders kick it forward and are able to retain the ball despite Josh Ioane's best efforts. They get close before Richie Mounga gets it and goes for the cross kick which Ennor fields and throws inside to Sevu Reece who canters over.
The conversion attempt is pulled by Richie Mounga.
A scintillating break from Josh Ioane, who races straight through the Crusaders defence. He finds support in the form of Fakatava. The replacement scrumhalf gets close and the Highlanders suffer from a bit of white line fever. They can't convert the opportunity but the Crusaders give away an offside penalty.
The Highlanders tap and go from a penalty and the ball is tackled into touch. They'll be very disappointed not to take points from this visit to the Crusaders 22.
The Crusaders have given away a penalty 40 metres out for hands in the ruck. Highlanders go for the corner again.
Lineout is overthrown and Havili bangs it downfield. Tevita Li is in space but he runs laterally and gets hunted down. The ball falls to AshDixon on the wing who throws the most delicious dummy which sells everyone. He looks to throw it inside but it goes straight to Mounga. The Crusaders attempt to play it out of their 22 but knock it on less than 10 metres from their own line.
The Highlanders win a scrum penalty which Josh Ioane punts into touch, just 5 metres out.
The Highlanders make another mistake, with the ball taken into touch.
TRY. CRUSADERS. DRUMMOND. 34-10. This is a vintage Crusaders try! Coast to coast! First it was Funnell who carried it from the lineout well. Eventually, the ball fell to Sevu Reece on halfway. He sprints down the wing but it looks like Ben Smith will stop him. Well, he does stop him but Reece throws a miracle offload which Drummond charges onto for the try!
CONVERSION. CRUSADERS. MOUNGA. 36-10. The conversion attempt is good from Mounga.
The Crusaders conced a scrume penalty 30 metres from their line. Ioane kicks for the corner again.
TRY. HIGHLANDERS. IOANE. 36-15. The maul was under pressure and Fokatava pulled it out quickly. Fantastic vision for him as he drops it onto the boot and grubbers into space. Ioane is there to collect and dot it over for the try!
CONVERSION. HIGHLANDERS. IOANE. 36-17. Ioane converts his own try with ease.
TRY. CRUSADERS. JORDAN. 41-17. My word that is phenomenal! From a standing start, Will Jordan shows a bit of footwork and in the blink of an eye he was through the gap, sprinting home for the try! 8th of the season for him!
CONVERSION. CRUSADERS. HUNT. 43-17. A very simple first kick for Mitch Hunt is kicked over from in front.
A scrum penalty against the Crusaders near their 22. It's a tap and go and almost straight away, the Crusaders give away another penalty. The referee has given Sam Whitelock a final warning (For the 2nd time... No yellow yet)
YELLOW CARD. CRUSADERS. FUNNELL. 43-17. Finally, the ref goes to his pocket, as Ben Funnell gives away a penalty for collapsing the maul and is sent to the bin for repeated team infringements.
FULL TIME. CRUSADERS 43 - 17 HIGHLANDERS. The Crusaders put up an incredible display in the second half and have won emphatically in Christchurch. A great game of rugby, with the home side coming out on top.