Scott Barrett returns to power struggling Crusaders to thumping win over Rebels

FILE - Crusaders' players in a huddle during a Super Rugby Pacific game. Photo: Sanka Vidanagama/AFP

FILE - Crusaders' players in a huddle during a Super Rugby Pacific game. Photo: Sanka Vidanagama/AFP

Published Apr 26, 2024


Powered by the return of All Blacks' lock Scott Barrett, the Canterbury Crusaders rediscovered winning form with a 39-0 Super Rugby victory over the Melbourne Rebels Friday.

Despite dominating the set piece and demolishing the Rebels pack, the Crusaders only led 10-0 at the break before opening up with a further 29 points to keep their play-off hopes alive.

It was only the second win in nine games for a side that has endured a nightmare year, largely hampered by injuries, after a run of seven titles in seven years.

But the return of Barrett, who had been sidelined for several weeks because of a hand injury, provided a much-needed stimulus.

Barrett said there had been "stern words" at training and the forwards responded.

"At times this season we've really struggled up front but the scrum went really well there and even the maul, we got into a wee bit of work there.

"There's been some tough lessons in the past few weeks and hopefully we've turned a corner."

Barrett produced an immense performance with lineout steals and anchoring a scrum that crushed the Rebels so much they were forced to change the entire front row after 30 minutes.

Rebels captain Sam Talakai said his side could not match the Crusaders forwards.

"They got on top and they stayed on top. It was disappointing for us." he said.

Handling errors which have plagued the Crusaders this year were still evident but their defence was markedly improved which blunted the Rebels attack.

The Crusaders had their first points on the board in the ninth minute with clever inter-passing by the forwards before back-rower Christian Lio-Willie scored in the corner.

Cullen Grace got the second first-half try when he charged unmarked on to a well-weighted cross-kick from Heremaia Murray.

Soon after the break Lio-Willie crossed again to cap off a long break by Johnny McNicholl.

Rivez Reihana, who missed his first three conversion attempts, eventually found the posts with a handy penalty and then added the extra points to late tries by Owen Franks, Sevu Reece and McNicholl.

In Sydney, the Waikato Chiefs made it eight wins from eight against the NSW Waratahs with a comfortable 38-22 victory.

The 'Tahs were looking to post their first back-to-back wins against New Zealand opposition since 2015 after upsetting the Crusaders a fortnight ago.

But after racing into a 12-0 lead with tries from Jake Gordon and Julian Heaven, their defence was exposed by the Chiefs' unrelenting attack.

After the Chiefs clawed back to reach the break all-square at 12-12 despite playing 20 minutes with 14 men, they hit another gear in the second half.

Tries from Emoni Narawa, Cortez Ratima and Wallace Sititi put them 31-15 ahead with 20 minutes left and they never looked like losing.

"Not the ideal start, but proud of the way we stuck at it and ground our way back into the game," said Chiefs skipper Kalyum Boshier.