Super Rugby Pacific: Crusaders overwhelm Fijian Drua to book semi-final showdown with archrivals Blues

Defending champions Crusaders have mercilessly dispatched Fijian Drua 49-8 to book a Super Rugby Pacific home semi-final showdown against archrivals Blues next weekend.

Their victory came at a cost, as they finished with only 13 players on the park and a few key injury concerns - including All Blacks Richie Mo'unga and Ethan Blackadder - in coming days.

The Cantabrians wasted no time imposing their superiority over the Pacific Island magicians, running in three converted tries in the opening 14 minutes - two to hooker Codie Taylor.

Codie Taylor in action for the Crusaders
Codie Taylor in action for the Crusaders. Photo credit: Photosport

The Fijians tried to keep the game unstructured, but found that approach faulty from the first kickoff that failed to travel 10 metres. From the ensuing scrum, the Crusaders raced into the 22, with prop Oli Jager taking the ball at speed to score.

Taylor scored in quick succession from attacking lineouts and while the Drua began to show their flair with ball in hand, they were never going to overcome their rivals' dominance of set-piece.

Trailling 21-0, they strangely opted to kick a penalty, rather than push for a try. Moments later, the Drua were another seven points down, when the Crusaders took tap from a scrum penalty and flanker Sione Havili Talitui powered over.

The visitors had their only try from the kickoff, when winger Selestino Ravutaumada pounced on a loose pass in the Crusaders 22 to score, but down 28-8, there was no way back for the plucky underdogs.

Second-half tries to captain Scott Barrett, winger Will Jordan and halfback Willi Heinz padded the scoreline, but coach Scott Robertson faces some injury concerns, before naming his line-up to face the Blues.

After struggling with a calf injury most of the season, Blackadder entered the game soon after the break, but lasted only five minutes, before he limped off again.

Replacement Zach Gallagher lasted another seven, before he exited too, with no more reserves left on the bench. The Crusaders played on with only 14 men, before Mo'unga also hobbled off with nine minutes remaining and his team down to 13.

"Very pleased with how the boys played tonight," said Barrett. "We can be pretty proud with how we showed up tonight.

"The Drua boys got one over us in the season and we played out pressure game - it was a bit dewy tonight, so we played to the conditions, I guess.

"Finals are about moments and we didn't really give them a sniff until late in the first half.

"To finish with 13 men, that's adversity that will possibly come next week. We'll recover well and look forward to next week."

The result also confirms the tabletopping Chiefs will host either the Brumbies or Hurricanes at Hamilton next Saturday.

Crusaders 49 (Taylor 2, Jager, Havili Talitui, Barrett, Jordan & Heinz tries; Mo'unga 6 conversions, Burke conversion) Fijian Drua 8 (Ravutaumada try; Lomani penalty)

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