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'Outclassed in every facet': Crusaders belt Western Force in reality check as set-piece dismantled

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6th May, 2023
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The Western Force’s finals hopes have suffered a gigantic blow after being hammered 48-13 by the Crusaders in Christchurch.

After going down against the Chiefs last week in a New Zealand classic, the Crusaders flexed their muscles and responded in the most dominating fashion against the Force.

The Crusaders scored eight tries to the Force’s one, with the home side’s scrum and rolling maul completely dismantling their opponents.

Such was the Crusaders’ dominance in the set-piece that Force loose-head prop Charlie Hancock was replaced after just 28 minutes.

While Marley Pearce’s introduction slightly helped, it was barely obvious as All Blacks prop Joe Moody went to work alongside emerging star Tamaiti Williams.

Their set-piece dominance led to Brodie McAlister scoring a hat-trick in his 52-minute showing.

The Force never stopped trying, but they were simply smashed up front and never stood a chance running the ball back into the teeth of the defence.

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“As cliched as it sounds, we were outclassed in every facet of the game and the scoreline shows that,” captain Michael Wells said.

Wells, the industrious back-rower, said the Force’s defence let them down, but it started with their struggles at the scrum which fed into the defensive lineout and maul.

“Obviously our defence went wrong,” he said.

“If you’re defending all game and not attacking until 60, you’re not forcing turnovers, letting them dominate territory.

“Twenty minutes to attack against a team like the Crusaders isn’t enough to win a game or be competitive.”

Brodie McAlister scored a hat-trick off the back of a dominate set-piece against the Western Force in Christchurch. Photo: Peter Meecham/Getty Images)

After blowing opportunities in the first half last week against a rampant Chiefs and then being put to the sword in the second half, Crusaders skipper Scott Barrett was a much happier figure enjoying the final stages of the match from the bench.

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Barrett said they reaped the rewards after going to work throughout the week, where they placed stronger emphasis over their set-piece.

“We talk about working on our habits that flows into our game,” he said. “Regardless of who we’re playing each week we’re trying to keep getting better and that starts on the training park.

“We probably didn’t get it right (last week) and it cost us vital points. A lot of the conversations this week were just about managing and working to our strengths at set-piece.”

All Blacks star Will Jordan made a successful return after a long stint on the sidelines as he made his way back slowly from concussion symptoms.

Jordan’s silky skills were on display during a 56-minute.

“It’s awesome to see Will back out on our side,” Barrett said. “He’s been ripping us up in training for the past month.”

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The Force can only hope that some of their key players return.

Disseminated by injury, the Force are missing Test front-rowers Tom Robertson, Folau Fainga’a and Izack Rodda.

Other key players Ollie Callan, Bryce Hegarty, Bayley Kuenzle and Jake Strachan are also sidelined.

It led to Max Burey being called up from the Shute Shield to wear the No.10 jersey on debut.

The 24-year-old played well with terribly slow ball and no gain line advantage while his kicking was a real feature, particularly from the tee.

But against the Crusaders you’ve got to win up front and the Force certainly didn’t.

Leicester Fainga’anuku had a happy night out against the Western Force at Orangetheory Stadium, on May 06, 2023, in Christchurch. Photo: Peter Meecham/Getty Images

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After taking a 6-5 early lead after two penalties to Burey, the Crusaders scored 45 unanswered points.

McAlister had his second in the 24th minute but it didn’t take long for the tries to rain.

Leicester Fainga’anuku scored the home side’s second three minutes later before Macca Springer grabbed one himself on the stroke of half time.

But it was in the opening 20 minutes of the second half that the wheels fell off as McAlister grabbed his third and Fainga’anuku and Springer their second tries each.

Jackson Pugh finally got one back for the Force in the 67th minute but all it did was show their fight and allow them to break into double figures.

The victory saw the Crusaders climb into second spot while the Force are languishing second last on 13 points, four points outside the top eight.

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