Crusaders punish Rebels as Genia injures knee

Jack Goodhue and David Havili celebrate another try for the visitors.

The Melbourne Rebels could possibly win the Australian conference and the Christchurch Crusaders could well repeat as Super Rugby champions but what was apparent from their clash on Friday night is there remains a massive gulf between the two nations.

The Crusaders 55-10 win at AAMI Park was the 39th straight win by a New Zealand side over an Australian club in the competition. A crowd of 11,357 came out to see one of Super Rugby’s elite teams and the visitors obliged in the second half with 42 unanswered points.

What will hurt just as much for the Wallabies was the sight of Rebels halfback Will Genia limping off on 38 minutes with what is feared to be a grade two or three MCL tear.

If scans on Saturday confirm the injury, Genia faces at least eight weeks on the sidelines and with the June test series with Ireland fast approaching, losing Genia to injury for the second time in four rounds is demoralising.

The loss was the fifth in a row for the Rebels and they will be hoping New South Wales Waratahs fall to the Blues in Sydney on Saturday so to keep the current Australian leaders within reach.

Rebels coach Dave Wessels said his side had to group after such a difficult loss.

“It was a frustrating game as I thought in the first half we were in the contest,” Wessels said.

“We made a couple of really key errors [to start the second half] which they scored straight away from, they scored 21 points just like that and that’s why they are the best team in the comp.

“The challenge for us is to regroup now.

“Last year we won one game, this year we are still very much in with an opportunity to make a playoff game and if we can do that then its a hell of an achievement for this club.”

The Rebels were brave for the most part but couldn’t get the better of the Crusaders either physically or mentally as the visitors attacked and defended at a relentless tempo.

From the outset the Crusaders made it clear they would look to dominate.

While Rebels fly-half Jack Debreczeni kicked a penalty goal three minutes in, the Crusaders were soon over for their first try. They took a quick tap, found No. 10 Richie Mounga who sent a looping pass out wide to winger Seta Tamanivalu who scored in the right corner.

Mounga’s kicking radar wasn’t as good as his passing arm as he missed that conversion and one later in the half.

With halfback Mitchell Drummond driving his powerful side at F1 speed, it looked inevitable they would run away with the contest, especially after Rebels centre Reece Hodge was yellow-carded for knocking down a Crusaders pass on 14 minutes.

The Crusaders did score again soon after efficiently driving up the field before hooker Andrew Makalio barged over from close to the line making it 10-3 after the missed conversion.

A line break from Genia sparked the home crowd and the Rebels should have converted that run into a try but for the tireless defence work from the Crusaders whose forwards were causing the Rebels all sorts of grief at the breakdowns.

The Kiwi side were toeing a fine line between obstructing play and soon flanker Matthew Todd paid the price for his professional foul, copping a yellow card.

Amanaki Mafi tries to charge through against the Crusaders.

As dominant as the Crusaders looked with ball in hand, they gifted the Rebels a try on 32 minutes as Drummond dropped the ball 30 metres from his own defensive line and Hodge pounced, kicking it on and then picking it up to run to score.

Debreczeni’s conversion made it 10-10 and Crusaders fullback was also sent off for 10 minutes for another professional foul.

Still the Rebels were unable to capitalise further and lost Genia to a suspected medial ligament strain on 38 minutes, seconds before the half-time whistle a poor scrum saw the home side penalised, giving Mounga the chance to kick from 40 metres out and his penalty scraped in to make it 13-10 at the long break.

Crusaders centre Ryan Crotty showed AFL-quality kicking skills when he put a perfectly aimed kick up for Tamanivalu who caught the ball over Jack Maddocks then drew in a defender before passing to Makalio for his brace and a 20-10 lead.

Drummond’s quick wits set up another try on 52 minutes flicking a cutout pass to Jack Goodhue to run into a gap making it 27-10.

Tamanivalu powered down the right wing again on 63 minutes holding off Michael Ruru before dishing to flanker Peter Samu for the try and a 34-10 lead.

A missed tackle from the restart had the Crusaders run right up the middle for another try, this time from Bryn Hunt, then they capped the win with a team try on 78 minutes which prop Wyatt Crockett finished.

Crusaders winger Manasa Mataele had the joy of scoring his try after the siren as the Rebels chose to chase a consolation try and turned it over.

The Rebels play the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday at 7.45pm.

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