Following on from the brief analysis of the Australian conference, I wanted to inspect the trans-Tasman rivals and see how the New Zealand conference had fared in the off-season too.
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The Crusaders have beaten the Sunwolves 33-11 in a wet and windy Christchurch in a match that confirmed what we all knew already: The Crusaders were always going to be too good, the Sunwolves would try hard, make it difficult, but never really threaten.
While the game might not have thrown up too many surprises, there were a few interesting talking points.
It was great to see Israel Dagg and Owen Franks back on the field and both looked good. There’s still more for them to do to get back into peak performance and it was a tough game for Dagg to really get into but it would have put a smile on the faces of the Crusaders fans to see them both back playing.
While it wasn’t an all out try fest, the weather forced the Crusaders to have to work much harder for their scores.
It took them a while to adjust to the conditions but they kept at it and gradually wore down the Sunwolves.
That was fine for today but against better opposition the Crusaders are going to need to learn to adapt quicker.
For the Sunwolves there’s the good and the bad. From the good side they have clearly worked hard on their defence.
In the past few weeks they have been missing and sliding off too many tackles and the scorelines have looked ugly as a result.
Today though their mentality and technique was much better and they only missed 11 from well over a hundred tackles.
Unfortunately they still lack the real ability to unlock the opposition defence. Their strength of being exciting in open play was not going to help today as the weather meant the game was much tighter throughout.
They kept working hard in attack and had some long periods of possession but they couldn’t seem to create too many genuine opportunities to score.
Did we learn too much from this game that we didn’t already know? Not really but it was good to see the Sunwolves working so hard to improve their defence.
The Crusaders will be glad to have picked up the full points potential from this game and get back to the top of the Kiwi conference.
They will have harder games and better opponents but you’ve got to win these ones too. Next week will be a key test – playing the Brumbies at home wont be a walk over.
The Sunwolves can be proud of their performance today but sadly there aren’t any points for pride and they will continue to struggle in this tournament.
Their road trip continues against the Canes next week and if the weather is better than their new defence will be really tested.