Barrett inspires Crusaders' return to form against Rebels

rugby26 April 2024 09:55| © AFP
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Scott Barrett © Getty Images

Powered by the return of All Blacks' lock Scott Barrett, the Crusaders rediscovered winning form with a 39-0 Super Rugby victory over the Melbourne Rebels Friday.

Despite dominating the set piece and demolishing the Rebels pack, the Crusaders only led 10-0 at the break before opening up with a further 29 points in the second half to keep their play-off hopes alive.

It was only the second win in nine games for a side that has endured a nightmare year, largely hampered by injuries, after a run of seven titles in seven years.

But the return of Barrett, who had been sidelined for several weeks because of a hand injury, provided a much-needed stimulus.

Barrett said there had been "stern words" at training and the forwards responded.

"At times this season we've really struggled up front but the scrum went really well there and even the maul, we got into a wee bit of work there.

"There's been some tough lessons in the past few weeks and hopefully we've turned a corner."

Barrett produced an immense performance with lineout steals and anchoring a scrum that crushed the Rebels so much they were forced to change the entire front row after 30 minutes.

Rebels captain Sam Talakai said his side could not match the Crusaders forwards.

"They got on top and they stayed on top. It was disappointing for us." he said.

Midfielder David Havili, another All Black returning from injury, came on as a second-half replacement to add extra steel to the backline.

Handling errors, which have plagued the Crusaders this year, were still evident but their defence was markedly improved, which blunted the Rebels attack.

The Rebels, who started the game fourth on the ladder compared to the Crusaders' 12th and last, were reduced to long-range kicks from Andrew Kellaway to gain ground.

The Crusaders had their first points on the board in the ninth minute with clever inter-passing by the forwards before back-rower Christian Lio-Willie scored in the corner.

Cullen Grace scored the second first-half try when he charged unmarked on to a well-weighted cross-kick from Heremaia Murray.

Soon after the break Lio-Willie scored his second try to cap off a long break by Johnny McNicholl.

Rivez Reihana, who missed his first three conversion attempts, eventually found the posts with a handy penalty and then added the extra points to late tries by Owen Franks, Sevu Reece and McNicholl.