Crusaders 'second-stringers' overcome Sunwolves
MATCH REPORT: The Crusaders have overcome a resolute Sunwolves in Saturday’s relocated Super Rugby match in Brisbane.
In what may well be the Japanese franchise’s final Super Rugby match due to doubts over this year’s competition amid the coronavirus pandemic, a much-changed Crusaders secured a 49-14 win at Suncorp Stadium.
Fleet-footed wing Sevu Reece scored a double for the New Zealand powerhouse, who were captained for the first time by halfback Bryn Hall.
Despite dominating territory and possession in the opening half, the Crusaders could only go in leading 14-7 against the Sunwolves – who have been unable to play in Japan since mid-February due to the coronavirus situation.
Tom Christie opened the scoring in the 19th minute but the defending Super Rugby champions were stunned in the 31st minute when former Brisbane City player Ben Hyne crashed over for the Sunwolves to level the scores.
Reece’s first try just before the break restored the Crusaders’ lead, and they powered away in the second half despite Garth April’s solo effort for the Sunwolves.
Former NSW Waratah Hugh Roach’s Crusaders’ debut lasted just six minutes after he came on for Christie, with the 27-year-old red-carded for elbowing Hencus Van Wyk after being strongly tackled by the South African.
Reece was then yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on as the Sunwolves threatened the Crusaders line, leaving the New Zealanders down to 13 players for the game’s closing stages.
Despite the two-man disadvantage, the Crusaders scored through Braydon Ennor before another debutant Fergus Burke iced the bonus-point victory with a try after the final siren.
The match was played in front of a sparse crowd with the immediate future of the competition unclear.
New Zealand government travel restrictions announced on Saturday mean after this weekend any traveller arriving in the nation will have to undergo a 14-day isolation period.
The impositions are going to make it near-impossible for the Crusaders and their fellow New Zealand franchises to travel internationally for fixtures, putting their ongoing participation in the 2020 competition in doubt.
If the competition is cancelled, Saturday’s loss will mark the Sunwolves’ final match in Super Rugby with the Tokyo-based franchise dropping out of the competition from 2021 onwards.
Tries: Reece 2, Christie, Romano, Havili, Ennor, Burke
Cons: Cameron 5, Burke 2
Tries: Hyne, April
Cons: April 2
Sunwolves: 15 James Dargaville, 14 Siosaia Fifita, 13 Keisuke Moriya, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Tautalatasi Tasi, 10 Garth April, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Jake Schatz (captain), 7 Mitch Jacobson, 6 Justin Downey, 5 Michael Stolberg, 4 Ben Hyne, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Efitusi Maafu, 1 Nic Mayhew.
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Jarred Adams, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Kotaro Yatabe, 20 Brendan O’Connor, 21 Naoto Saito, 22 Shogo Nakano, 23 Yoshizumi Takeda.
Crusaders: 15 George Bridge, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Dallas McLeod, 11 Leicester Faingaanuku, 10 Brett Cameron, 9 Bryn Hall (captain), 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Sione Havili, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Oliver Jager, 2 Brodie McAlister, 1 George Bower.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Isi Tu’ungafasi, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 20 Tom Sanders, 21 Ere Enari, 22 Fergus Burke, 23 Manasa Mataele.
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper (Australia), Amy Perrett (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)