The ladder-leading Crusaders have dismantled the Rebels with a comprehensive 66-0 defeat of the Melbourne Rebels in Christchurch.
Sam Talakai backed up the midweek chat when he boasted the Rebels forwards were excited at the prospect of playing in wet and windy conditions; a couple of early scrums penalties and lineout wins against the throw giving early hope.
Both teams looked to control the conditions with some tactical kicking behind the defensive line. When a Crusaders grubber was carried over the tryline by the Rebels, the hosts used the 5-metre scrum to direct a cross field kick to unmarked right wing Sevu Reece for the opening try of the game.
The formula for success had been discovered early by the Crusaders, and so began a lethal period of Crusaders counterattacks that stretched the Rebels defence and placed the ball in the hands of their outside backs at any given opportunity.
After an earlier try to fullback David Havili, Brayden Ennor ensured the Crusaders back three would get a hat-trick of tries inside of the first half hour. Another probing kick by Richie Mo’unga found the left wing unmarked and got the men from Canterbury into the Rebels twenty-two. Two phases later and the Rebels retreating defence was unable to number up on the left edge and Ennor was capitalising on the chance he first created.
That’s how the scores looked set to remain heading into the half, but when the Rebels failed to find touch when exiting their half after the siren, the Crusaders countered with another cross-field kick that found Ennor. The wing had little trouble picking apart the Rebels defence to lead his men into the sheds with a 26-0 lead.
The second half saw the Rebels turn to the bench earlier than usual to stem the tide. Luke Jones was finding holes running off Michael Ruru’s hip, but the last line of defence was proving difficult for the Melburnians to breach.
In contrast, the Crusaders were there in numbers whenever Sevu Reece was given a sniff; the dynamic Fijian laying it on a platter for his support runners when he wasn't busy chalking up his own hat-trick of tries.
No doubt inspired by his team mate, opposite wing Brayden Ennor crossed for his own hat-trick in a sign of just how much space the Crusaders were finding on the edges.
In his 150th Super Rugby appearance, Ryan Crotty would have his dessert, crossing down in the final play of the game to cap of his milestone match in style.
The result leaves the Rebels in a precarious position on the ladder with their final game at home on Friday night now certain to determine their finals aspirations.
Tries: Reece (3), Havili (2), Ennor (3), Hall, Crotty
Conversions: Mo'unga (7), Crotty
Halftime: 26-0 (Crusaders)