McCaw’s Crusaders too strong for Smith’s Highlanders

Rico Gear scored a hat-trick of tries to guide the 2005 Crusaders to a 28-18 victory over the 2015 Highlanders in Game 8 of the Greatest Super Rugby Team tournament.

The interactive tournament puts readers at the match controls to decide which of Super Rugby’s most prolific contenders was the greatest in the history of the southern-hemisphere competition.

SA Rugby magazine readers dived into Game 8 of the 32-team knockout tournament, with the away side claiming the victory after 28% of voters backed them to win by between six and 10 points in Dunedin.

The influential Gear, an instrumental part of the Crusaders’ charge towards the 2005 Super Rugby title, showcased his talent in this clash, where he carved the 2015 Highlanders to shreds.

The result eliminates the 2015 Highlanders from the tournament while the 2005 Crusaders advance to the round of 16, where they will face the 1997 Blues, completing the first half of the bracket.

A star-studded Crusaders team that had won nine of their 11 games on their way to the title proved far too strong for coach Jamie Joseph’s plucky Highlanders side.

Crusaders captain Richie McCaw had a field day at the breakdown, while flyhalf Dan Carter controlled the game excellently through his boot, giving his side plenty of territory.

The two sides went blow for blow in the first half as Waisake Naholo opened the scoring with an excellent try for the Highlanders, before the Crusaders responded through Gear’s first try.

Lima Sopoaga then knocked over a couple of penalties to give the Highlanders a 13-7 lead, before Gear’s second put the Crusaders 14-13 up at the break.

The Highlanders were quickest out of the blocks in the second half as Liam Coltman scored from a maul. However, from there the Crusaders took control as Reuben Thorne buried his way over the line from close range, before Gear completed his hat-trick with a sensational third, as the Crusaders countered from a poor Highlanders clearance.

2015 Highlanders – Tries: Waisake Naholo, Liam Coltman. Conversion: Lima Sopoaga. Penalties: Sopoaga (2).
2005 Crusaders –  Tries: Rico Gear (3), Reuben Thorne. Conversions: Dan Carter (4).

2015 Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Josh Honeck, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Brendon Emmonds.
Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown,  18 Ross Geldenhuys,  19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Shane Christie, 22 Fumiaki Tanaka, 23 Marty Banks.

Coach: Jamie Joseph

2005 Crusaders – 15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Rico Gear, 13 Caleb Ralph, 12 Aaron Mauger, 11 Scott Hamilton, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Justin Marshall, 8 Mose Tuiali’i, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Reuben Thorne, 5 Ross Filipo, 4 Chris Jack, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Dave Hewett.
Subs: 16 Tone Kopelani, 17 Campbell Johnstone, 18 Sam Broomhall, 19 Johnny Leo’o, 20 Jamie Nutbrown, 21 Andrew Mehrtens, 22 Casey Laulala.

Coach: Robbie Deans

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Dylan Jack