RugbyU: Crusaders rumble on to stay unbeaten
New Zealand’s Canterbury Crusaders won a record-equalling 13th straight game to stay unbeaten in Super Rugby this season with a 41-19 bonus-point win over Australia’s Melbourne Rebels in Melbourne on Saturday.
The benchmark Kiwi outfit scored six tries to three but encountered stiffer resistance from the Rebels in the second half after leading 31-7 at half-time.
The latest victory equalled the record held by the 2002 Crusaders — who featured current coach Scott Robertson.
The Crusaders’ free-wheeling win stretched New Zealand’s dominance to 20-0 over Australian opposition this season and it has been a full year since the last Australian win over a Kiwi team.
It was the Christchurch-based Crusaders’ 11th consecutive win over Australian teams and kept them firmly entrenched at the top of the New Zealand conference.
“The team has been great and we’ve used a number of the boys, everyone when they’ve had the opportunity has stepped up and played really well and tonight was no different,” Crusaders skipper Sam Whitelock said.
“It’s good (to stay top), but we’re pretty hard on ourselves though so we’re locked in and make sure we do.”
Replacement Jed Brown scored a double with other tries to Manasa Mataele, Seta Tamanivalu, David Kaetau Havili and Mitchell Drummond with fly-half Richie Mo’unga landing four conversions and a penalty.
The seven-time champion Crusaders dominated territory and possession, made 15 linebreaks and ran a total of 795 metres with some scintillating passages of running rugby as the Rebels struggled to contain the Kiwi juggernauts.
The Rebels, under threat of being dropped from next year’s competition, outscored the Crusaders 12-10 in the second half with rugby league winger convert Marika Koroibete scoring two tries.
But Melbourne had more bad luck in their fifth straight loss with an apparent serious arm injury to their Wallaby back-rower Sean McMahon.
McMahon was forced off with a suspected broken left arm seven minutes from the end, putting him in doubt for the Wallabies’ first international of the season against Fiji in Melbourne on June 10.
The Crusaders still have to play Kiwi title rivals the Otago Highlanders and the Wellington Hurricanes in their remaining two games.