Crusaders 15 Reds 11
Reds scrumhalf Will Genia. Photo: Getty Images
UGLY, messy, sloppy - take your pick. The Crusaders got lucky against the Reds at AMI Stadium last night.
Have a look at it this way; whistle-happy referee Bryce Lawrence favoured the Crusaders 16-7 in the penalty count, the Reds scored the only try and if five-eighth Tom Taylor didn't prove he possesses the temperament of a brain surgeon by slotting five of his six penalties this result would have different.
Zac Guildford of the Crusaders is tackled by Anthony Faingaa of the Reds. Photo: Getty Images
One did not have to wonder why windows of the Crusaders coach's box were steamed up.
As he sat there writing his post-match notes, it was difficult to sight Todd Blackadder behind the misty glass. No doubt his papers highlighted several areas that require fixing before meeting the Rebels and that list is likely to be considerable in size.
A sports shrink could state that after impressive victories over the Waratahs, Hurricanes (the highlight so far this season) and Stormers, this was a timely reminder the Crusaders cannot get too carried away with themselves.
Blackadder wasn't prepared to put too much spin on the poor result and, not surprisingly, was measured in his post-match analysis.
"I try to look at it from what I would say if we had lost because I think if we approach it from that angle we will take some good lessons out of it,'' he said.
"I'm delighted with the win, but we are just disappointed [with the performance], I would suggest.''
The Crusaders had reason to feel miffed about several of Lawrence's decisions. After repeated scrum resets in the second half, when hot on attack, he determined the Reds were not at fault when the set-piece screwed wildly and a minute later yellow-carded Wyatt Crockett for a petty tackle offence.
In what was maybe an omen of things to follow, second-rower Tom Donnelly was forced out at late notice with a back complaint.
That required Sam Whitelock to be drafted in, not a bad replacement to be fair, and Ross Kennedy slotted in on the bench.
But things started badly when halfback Andy Ellis unwittingly contributed to the sole try. Reds centre Anthony Faingaa jolted the ball from Ellis's grasp following Mike Harris's kick-off, the scrum was won, the Queensland forwards surged and hooker James Hanson emerged from the in-goal pile-up a happy man.
Ironically, for a match booked in for a rare afternoon timeslot expected to produce a bundle of tries, the remaining 78 minutes produced absolutely none.
Periodically the Crusaders were surprised by the Reds' intensity in the rucks, where openside breakaway Liam Gill, 19, contributed to putting pressure on the ball, No.8 Scott Higginbotham also made precious metres with his ball running and halfback Will Genia kicked cleverly and worked the blindside well.
The Crusaders battled gamely but even one of their best in recent weeks, the blockbusting No.8 and skipper Kieran Read, was not immune to spilling the nut.
Blindside breakaway George Whitelock was typically no-nonsense in the tight exchanges and second-rower Luke Romano had one of his best performances this season.
One of the biggest cheers of the night for the Crusaders came on the stroke of half-time when their defensive scrum demolished their opponents and earned a penalty.
It was a rare highlight on a largely forgettable night.
CRUSADERS 15 (Tom Taylor 5 pens) bt QUEENSLAND REDS 11 (James Hanson try Michael Harris 2 pens) at Rugby League Park. Referee: Bryce Lawrence.