Crusaders and Chiefs impress in pre-season action

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They were given a hurry-up by their southern neighbours, the Highlanders, in Friday's annual Farmlands Cup game, played this year in Temuka, having to come from 0-26 down at halftime to win 28-26.


Not surprisingly, coach Scott Robertson said the young side, without its All Blacks, had taken some good lessons from the game.


It was a similar process to what happened most years in pre-season play and he was confident the defending champions would produce a better performance when at full strength for their first game of the competition, also against the Highlanders, in a fortnight. In the meantime they would be hoping prop Oli Jager's ankle injury was not too serious.


It would also help that all the squad's All Blacks would be available for their second warm-up game, against the Blues in Auckland, on Saturday.


"I think in that first 20 when we had about 12 penalties against us, and every bounce of the ball, and everything we tried wasn't quite coming off," he said.


Robertson was starting to worry about what they had been doing in their pre-season work.

At the same time, the Highlanders had played with great tempo and had been 'incredible' for 20 minutes and then the game had swung on its head.


The process had given all his players time in action, and the requirement at halftime had been to make the Highlanders make some tackles because they hadn't been required to do a lot, he said.


"We had been doing a lot of tackling, and to trust our skill set and build from pressure, and we did straight away," he said.


The Highlanders still had a chance to claim a win, but a late penalty goal opportunity to Caleb Makene missed.


Highlanders coach Tony Brown was delighted with the side's first-half performance. The play of halfback Folau Fakatava was especially pleasing, but in the second half the side was pressured in lineouts and that was a concern.


That highlighted some of the side's lack of depth, and those players who hadn't been exposed beyond Mitre 10 Cup level would have learnt from the outing.


Scorers: Crusaders 28 (Timoci Tavatanawai 2, Fletcher Newell, Sione Havili tries; Brett Cameron 4 con) Highlanders 26 (Liam Coltman 2, Jona Nareki, Ngane Punivai tries; Mitch Hunt 3 con). HT: 0-26

Also taking a boost from the weekend were the Chiefs who won both their games in the game of three halves at Maidstone Park in Upper Hutt on Saturday.


They beat the Hurricanes 19-14 and the Blues 12-5 while the Hurricanes beat the Blues 14-5.


New coach Clayton McMillan was happiest with the lack of injuries in the outing, something that was also the case for the other sides.


But McMillan was remaining grounded, saying "It was good to get a couple of positive results, but there's still lots to work on, which is what pre-season is all about."


There was also the fact all teams would look different when the season kicks off as a result of all their All Blacks being restored.


Scorers: Chiefs 19 (Samisoni Taukei'aho, Luke Jacobson, Samipeni Finau tries; Bryn Gatland 2 con) Hurricanes 14 (James O'Reilly, Ruben Love tries; Love 2 con).


Chiefs 12 (Shaun Stevenson try; Penalty try) Blues 5 (Harry Plummer try).


Hurricanes 14 (Jonathan Taumateine, Wes Goosen tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 2 con) Blues 5 (Zarn Sullivan try).


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