- By Grizz Wyllie III
On June 18 the New Zealand Herald was forced to begrudgingly acclaim yet another Crusaders Super Rugby triumph. Trouncing the bumbling Blues at Eden Park represented an unprecedented 12th championship, and sixth in a row.
It’s often said records are made to be broken. At the Crusaders records are added to, yearp.
When rookie hooker George Bell and lock Liam Hallam-Eames played in the Crusaders 53-15 thrashing of the Force in Perth on May 7 they joined a unique club of bona-fide battlers.
That is Crusaders to have played one game and won a Super Rugby title, denoted by a sword on the Honours Board at the reception of Rugby Park.
With respect to Bell, the New Zealand Under-20 captain is likely to feature again in 2023.
Will Isaiah Punivai, Kaveinga Finau and Kini Naholo be Crusaders again? All three played in the 33-12 win over Moana Pasifika on March 4.
Punivai was due to come off the bench but the late scratching of Leicester Fainga’anuku saw the center promoted to the starting XV. He contributed 36 solid carry meters.
Kaveinga Finau replaced Punivai in the second-half, recording a beaten defender.
Kini Naholo (brother of All Black Waisake Naholo) featured on the left wing. Kini has been plagued by injury. In 2017 he scored 41 tries in 20 games for the National Champion, Hastings Boys’ High School First XV.
Who are the other OMC’s (biggest one-hit wonders) in Crusaders history?
Crusaders Number: 52
Crusaders Game: Chiefs, 23-25, Albany, February 28, 1998
Enjoyed a successful secondary school career making a National Top Four with Otago Boys’ High School in 1994 and Timaru Boys’ High School in 1995. The 1995 Timaru First XV won 20 of 22 games and Johnstone was picked for the New Zealand Schools.’
His only Crusaders appearance was off the bench in the first game of the 1998 season. Ironically Leon McDonald kicked five penalties for the Chiefs. McDonald later played 122 games and won six championships with the Crusaders.
Johnstone played 46 first class games for Marlborough (some as captain), Wellington, Nelson Bays and Tasman between 1996 and 2006.
Crusaders Number: 56
Crusaders Game: Blues, 20-13, Auckland, May 30, 1998
Feeney was a quality first-five who played 66 games and scored 555 points for Counties, helping the Steelers make NPC finals in 1996 and 1997. He played four games for the Chiefs, but in 1998 was playing senior rugby for Belfast (the club of coach Wayne Smith) in Christchurch.
Feeney was called into the Crusaders, along with halfback Elton Moncrieff (2 games), as utility cover. All Blacks halfback Justin Marshall missed most of the season with an achilles injury.
Feeney found himself on the bench for the final against twice reigning champions the Blues at Eden Park.
He came on as a winger and was forced to mark All Black Joeli Vidiri. He was the last of the 31 players the Crusaders used that season.
As a gesture of good will, Feeney was welcomed by his teammates to carry the trophy into the dressing room for the piss-up after the game. Today he sells real estate in Pukekohe.
Crusaders Number: 61
Crusaders Game: Chiefs, 48-3, Christchurch, February, 26, 1999
Came off the bench in the first game of the season and was surplus to requirements thereafter. Sean (a Sydenham centurion) played 25 first class games, including appearances for Otago and
Canterbury. He is a director for Waimak Water Ltd.
This Crusaders win was their biggest against the Chiefs. Andrew Merthens scored 23 points.
Crusaders Number: 62
Crusaders Game: Blues, 22-16, Auckland, March 5, 1999
The Mid Canterbury wing or fullback played 29 first class games and scored 14 tries. His loan appearance for the Crusaders was off the bench in an ugly win at Eden Park. Andrew Mehrtens kicked five penalties and Justin Marshall scored a try.
In 2010 he played for the Crusaders Legends against the Highlanders Legends in a curtain raiser to the main Super 14 match between the two franchises at the revamped AMI Stadium (one of the many stupid names that replaced the indomitable Lancaster Park)
Crusaders Number: 71
Crusaders Game: Highlanders, 37-13, Christchurch, March 20, 2000 (Semi)
The Crusaders had an injury crisis at halfback. Ben Hurst (instead of All Black Justin Marshall) started the 2000 final which the Crusaders won 20-19 against the Brumbies in Canberra.
In the semi-final, the useful Billy Fulton came off the bench in a convincing win against the Highlanders which saw Andrew Merthens kick six penalties and punish the ill-disciplined Highlanders. Fijian wing Marika “Dawainavesi” Vunibaka scored two tries.
Fulton played 62 first class games, the peak of which was appearances for the Maori All Blacks in 2004. He also played for North Harbour, Canterbury, the Highlanders and Blues. Today he is a project manager for Naylor Love.
Crusaders Number: 82
Crusaders Game: Stormers, 41-21, Christchurch, April 12, 2002
White was a durable prop who played 84 games for Auckland, winning four NPC titles. In the Crusaders prefect 13-0 season he was called in as injury cover and played off the bench in a convincing win against the Stormers.
White was unusual in that he was a goal-kicking prop and better known as a bowler while in the King’s College First XI cricket team. For the past three years he’s been a scrum coach with the Chiefs, ironically the only New Zealand franchise he didn’t play for in his 40-game Super Rugby career.
Crusaders Number: 83
Crusaders Game: Hurricanes, 48-20, Wellington, May 4, 2002
From the Christchurch Old Boys’ club, Mustchin played beside Richie McCaw in his senior club debut and recalled: “He made this tackle off the back of a scrum and a few of us looked at each other and went ‘holy cow, this kid is pretty good’ and away we went.”
Because of McCaw, Mustchin never got much of a look in at the Crusaders, a run off the bench in front of a bumper crowd at Westpac Stadium the best it got in New Zealand.
He relocated to Ulster and then Edinburgh. In 2008 he was selected for Scotland and played five tests, including a match against McCaw and the All Blacks which Scotland lost 6-32.
Crusaders Number: 106
Crusaders Game: Reds, 47-21, Brisbane, February 18, 2006
Daniel Carter was in imperious form in this match dropping 27 points (including two tries) on the Reds. Yates was a speedster from Greymouth who came on as a reserve. He played 28 games for Canterbury and scored ten tries. He was a New Zealand Sevens representative in a dozen tournaments and scored 44 tries.
He joined Toyota in 2010 and became a Japanese citizen in 2015. Unfortunately, in 2019 he was arrested for cocaine possession.
Crusaders Number: 230
Crusaders Game: Blues, 54-17, Christchurch, July 14, 2018
The determined hooker played 62 games for Otago and captained his province on many occasions. He debuted in 2010 and retired in 2019, family, new employment, and a knee injury the main reasons for that.
A product of the Dunedin club, Anderson-Heather ironically made his Super Rugby debut for the Highlanders against the Crusaders in 2014. The Crusaders won the game 32-30 with Highlanders wing Patrick Osborne controversially (rightly) denied a try on full time.
His lone appearance for the Crusaders was from the bench in a romp of the Blues, just the second-time the Crusaders put 50 on the Blues. All Black wing George Bridge scored a hat-trick.
The pinnacle of his career was in 2017 when he captained the New Zealand Barbarians provincial XV against the British and Irish Lions in Whangarei. This was the first game of the 2017 Lions tour. He scored the only try for his side in a narrow 7-13 defeat.
Crusaders Number: 243
Crusaders Game: Sunwolves, 49-14, Brisbane, March 14, 2020
Roach initially made his name playing for Eastwood in Sydeny’s Shute Shield, named 2013 Rookie of the Year. This good form saw him picked by the Western Force for their match against the British and Irish Lions in June 2013.
The Australian Under 20 rep was a Waratahs regular playing 41 matches between 2013 and 2018.
In 2019 he took up a playing contract with Tasman in the Mitre 10 Cup and helped the Mako win the NPC Premiership.
He went to London Irish but his contract was terminated because of a foot injury. Roach returned to New Zealand as injury cover for the Crusaders and made his debut off the bench against the Sunwolves. Sevu Reece scored two tries and received a yellow card in a lively performance.
Andrew Makalio, Brodie McAlister, Codie Taylor were the original hookers named in the Crusaders squad.
French Barbarians Game
On June 15, 2018 the Crusaders hosted a French Barbarians selection in Christchurch and beat the tourists 42-26. Fullback Mitchell Hunt produced a star turn, scoring 22-points. There were four one-hit Crusaders in this non Super Rugby fixture.
Rameka Poihipi started at second-five. In 2022 the Maori All Black ironically scored the winning try for the Chiefs against the Crusaders in a 24-21, Round 4 win.
Sam Beard (center), Ryan Coxon (prop) and Caleb Makene (first-five) also came off the bench for their solitary Crusaders appearance.
Midfield back Jack Stratton also featured in this game. The only other appearance he made for the Crusaders was as a substitute against the Sunwolves on 21 April in Christchurch. The Crusaders won the match 33-11 with Stratton scoring one of the five Crusaders tries. All Black Ryan Crotty grabbed a double.
Damian Penaud scored two tries for the French. The center has played 26 tests for France and scored 10 tries. It was the Crusaders first win against an international side. They’d previously been shafted by England in 2014 and the British and Irish Lions in 2017.
Super Rugby Trans-Tasman 2021
After beating the Chiefs 23-15 in the Super Rugby Aotearoa final, the Crusaders were forced to back up a week later against the Brumbies on May 15 in Christchurch. They almost stumbled.
Thankfully Brendan O’Connor (160, 3 games, 2012) returned in 2021 and helped save the game as a substitute flanker.
He scored a try in the 62nd minute of a 31-29 win. In the last ten minutes the Brumbies stormed back with two tries to almost draw the game. Wallabies first-five Noah Lolesio cracked under pressure, shaving the right-hand upright with the last kick of the game.
The Crusaders won all five games in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman but missed the final on points difference to the Highlanders by a converted try. The Blues, who O’Connor previously played for, won the competition. Lock Liam Allen played one game off the bench in a 54-28 win against the Waratahs in Sydney on May 29.
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