Crusaders bounce back to crush Western Force
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: Leicester Fainga’anuku and Will Jordan both scored hat-tricks to power the Crusaders to a 53-15 bonus-point win over the Western Force in Perth.
Wing Fainga’anuku touched down three times in the first half to set the tone of Saturday’s Super Rugby Pacific match at HBF Park.
Fullback Jordan then completed the demolition job with three of his own in the second half in the eight-tries-to-two romp.
“They’re a classy outfit. If you want to compete against them, you have to have an 80-minute performance,” Force stand-in captain Kyle Godwin said.
“We weren’t too bad in the first half. But we rested on our laurels there and got punched in the second half.
“It’s disappointing. It’s back to the drawing board again.”
The Crusaders entered the clash under intense pressure after suffering two losses from their past three games – a rare form slump for the 12-time champions.
Their win over the Force has helped improve their record to 8-3, but the Crusaders’ top-two hopes will be put to the test when they take on the second-placed Brumbies in Canberra on Friday.
The Force are now a woeful 2-8, but remarkably they are still within touching distance of the eighth-placed Highlanders, with the two teams to clash in New Zealand next Friday.
The Crusaders were forced into a late shuffle on Saturday after several players were forced into the health and safety protocols.
Oli Jager, Zach Gallagher, Mitch Drummond and Dominic Gardiner were all withdrawn on medical grounds, but the Crusaders still entered the match boasting a squad laden with All Blacks.
The Force also suffered a late blow after in-form wing Manasa Mataele and former All Black Richard Kahui were ruled out due to the head injury assessment protocols.
Fainga’anuku scored the first try of the match in the 12th minute when he barged over from close range.
The Force hit back in spectacular style four minutes later when Kyle Godwin unleashed a perfectly-placed dribble kick for fullback Jake Strachan to run onto.
But the rest of the half belonged to the Crusaders, with Fainga’anuku shining the brightest.
The 22-year-old jumped into the air with his arm outstretched to touch down in the corner while he was being pushed into touch by Godwin.
His third try will end up being one of the easiest of his career, with Fainga’anuku strolling over in the left-hand corner after the Force left him completely unmarked from a scrum.
The scoreline read 18-15 when Force flanker Fergus Lee-Warner touched down early in the second half.
But the Crusaders ran in the next five tries – including three to Jordan – to seal the easy win.
For Western Force:
Tries: Strachan, Lee-Warner
Tries: Fainga’anuku 3, Matera, Jordan 3, Bell
Cons: Mo’unga 5
Western Force: 15 Jake Strachan, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Bayley Kuenzle, 11 Reece Tapine, 10 Reesjan Pasitoa, 9 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, 8 Tim Anstee, 7 Ollie Callan, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Izack Rodda, 4 Ryan McCauley, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u (captain), 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Bo Abra, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 Alex Masibaka, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Jake McIntyre, 23 Grason Makara.
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 George Bridge, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 David Havili (captain), 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Pablo Matera, 7 Sione Havili Talitui, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Cullen Grace, 3 Fletcher Newell, 2 Ricky Jackson, 1 Tamaiti Williams
Replacements: 16 George Bell, 17 Seb Calder, 18 George Bower, 19 Liam Hallam-Eames, 20 Tom Christie, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Fergus Burke, 23 Chay Fihaki
Referee: Jordan Way
Assistant Referees: Damon Murphy & Matt Kellahan
TMO: Brett Cronan