As was expected, at least according to the bookies’ odds, the Canterbury Crusaders mauled their way past the Queensland Reds this weekend to book their spot in the Super Rugby semi-finals for the 12th season in a row.
In the end, the Australian visitors were more than a shade off the pace, and despite coming close on several occasions, they were prevented from scoring even a single try in their 38-9 defeat.
Depending on how the qualifier between the ACT Brumbies and the Central Cheetahs pans out, the Christchurch titans will now face either the Waikato Chiefs or the Blue Bulls in the next round of the postseason.
Focusing on the now, however, the following players were largely responsible for Crusaders’ most recent demolition. These stars chose to shine at the right moment yet again for the New Zealand franchise.
One of four Whitelock brothers to have taken to the AMI Stadium pitch on Saturday, George’s contributions in both attack and defence currently put him at the top of the family tree.
The 27-year-old was unfortunate to have a try disallowed after getting held up just prior to halftime, but Whitelock had plenty of other occasions to add five to his side’s tally.
Crashing the ball up the middle of the pitch, the back-rower often drifted into the channels rather than get sucked in unnecessarily. He made himself available as a big, physical first receiver whenever possible.
Whenever that wasn’t the case, Whitelock ensured that his support was dangling off the shoulder of the ball-carrier, making it that much harder for the Reds to get any sight of the ball.
Still a budding talent in the Crusaders system, Ryan Crotty showed his potential to become the team’s leading force in the middle of the pitch, grabbing two tries against the Reds this weekend.
The 24-year-old showed all the trademarks of a great centre against his most recent opposition—a great step, soft hands and the ability to turn on the afterburners when the slightest gap emerged in the opposition's back line.
Despite setting his teammates up for a great deal of chances, Crotty found himself on the end of a few opportunities this weekend—some almost completely independently engineered.
While Quade Cooper could have had an easier time from the tee this weekend, Dan Carter was nevertheless reliable in his kicking duties. He was as omnipotent as ever when it came to that aspect of his game.
The Crusaders fly-half notched three penalties and three conversions, one of which was for a try he finished off nicely, showing good pace from short range to round off a lovely passing movement.
The official Super Rugby Twitter account took note of the move:
Classy as ever, the New Zealand international continued his trend of throwing his tees into the crowd with each kick, but that class extended into the back’s play.
An inconspicuous catalyst, Carter bided his time, acting as nothing more than a mediator amongst his back line. But with the slightest pause or the quickening of tempo, the 31-year-old helped to create numerous line breaks in his latest AMI Stadium outing.