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Read intent on getting ABs firing

Published: 1:02PM Sunday March 17, 2013 Source: Fairfax

  • Crusaders' captain Kieran Read in action. (Source: Photosport)
    Crusaders' captain Kieran Read in action. - Source: Photosport

Who says the Crusaders can't get the best out of their All Blacks? Certainly not Kieran Read who's apparently on a one-man mission to blow that theory to smithereens.

Read is the captain of the Crusaders and he was quite magnificent for the seven-time champions at AMI Stadium on Saturday night as they registered their first victory of the Super Rugby season with a 41-19, six tries to one, demolition of the previously unbeaten Bulls.

Truth be told, the 27-year-old 48-Test No. 8 had been pretty darn good too in the previous outings, defeats to the Blues in Auckland and to the Hurricanes in the capital.

But on Saturday night the hard-charging, big-tackling forward took his game to another level, inspiring his team-mates with his physicality, commitment and direct approach before coach Todd Blackadder decided it was job done and gave him the final quarter off.

There has been a lot of talk, some of it fuelled by Blackadder as he ponders solutions to a title drought that now numbers five years, that the Crusaders' All Blacks are not always at their best for their franchise.

This is a theory that is not isolated to the Christchurch-based franchise, but which is exacerbated there because of the large number of senior All Blacks they have in their number.

But if Read's form this year is any guide, perhaps Blackadder has hit on a solution. Certainly the early indicators are positive that the world-class No. 8 is set to have the sort of season his team needs given the long-term absence of the great Richie McCaw.

"There were patches there where we got a little bit sideways, were a little indecisive and every time Reado got it he just carried hard and gave us our go-forward," noted Blackadder afterwards.

"I have no doubt all those tries and those great phases come from someone being really deliberate and he always puts his hand up.

"I thought what he did out on D tonight, running the ball up under our posts really gave us a good platform to exit well. He was huge tonight."

It seemed it was catching. Up front Owen Franks, Wyatt Crockett and Sam Whitelock all got stuck into their work splendidly. There were signs Dan Carter was easing back into form and Izzy Dagg went looking for a mountain of work, even if not all of it was faultless.

These were leading All Blacks playing like their pedigree suggests they should in a moment of need for their desperate franchise who were on the cusp of an 0-3 start for the first time since the competition's inaugural season in 1996.

And they took their cue from Read. Make no mistake about that.

Read, of course, is too nice a guy to bask in any spotlights. He did what he had to, and that was the extent of his reflection post-game as he acknowledged a deliberate policy of attacking the Bulls where they're strongest.

"Against these sides you want to be direct and show a bit of physicality, that's how you nullify what they're good at and show how we want to play. I'm pleased how the boys really stepped up in that area.

"You've got to attack their strengths up front, it's where they get all their launches and how they get their game going. We put pressure on at the lineout and our scrum was really effective. You've got be happy with that outcome."

A worryingly high error rate early on (the Crusaders committed handling errors for the match, but a high proportion of them came in the opening quarter) threatened to undo much of the good work, but Read had faith that it would pay dividends.

"The intent we showed was what we were after, though certainly the execution wasn't there early. I was happy with what we were creating. Those individual errors I'm sure we can fix and that will make it a bit easier on ourselves.

"The patience was great," added Read of some special ball-retention by the Crusaders.

"Any time you have to defend that amount of phases it's certainly making you work hard and later in the game it can have an effect. We'll take that into the next few games, and I guess it's a blueprint against South African sides."

Read also agreed with his coach's assertion that this victory would have done wonders for the confidence of a Crusaders outfit who had been searching for their game a bit through the previous two rounds.

"The feeling has been positive but you can't beat a win," he said - a fact the big home crowd of over 15,000 would have agreed with.

"Certainly we'll get to Monday knowing we've got to keep doing what we're doing, and keep working hard.

"The confidence is high, and it's a great feeling. Playing at home helps, but we've got to keep our feet on the ground. We know it's just one game and she's a long season."