Pick'n Go
Willie le Roux sparks Crusaders into action
Sam Bruce
March 23, 2015
Crusaders 57-14 Cheetahs (Australia Only)

Crusaders fans have Cheetahs fullback Willie le Roux to thank for the moment when a season turned around in Christchurch, for the seven-time champions finally turned up when the South African custodian hung his left arm out and collected Nemani Nadolo around the neck.

The first 40-and-a-bit minutes in Christchurch on Saturday had, much like the rest of the Crusaders' season, been patchy at best. Dropped balls, defensive lapses, poorly-time runs; even the ever-reliable Ryan Crotty put down the simplest of passes. The Crusaders were continuing their blunder-laden 2015 - one that had led coach Todd Blackadder to make the startling remark that opposition teams no longer "respected his side".

But respect is unlikely to be an issue now.

The pivotal moment © Getty Images

Moments after Le Roux had made his way to the sideline, the Crusaders were finally rewarded for their scrum dominance with a penalty try; the Cheetahs pack had been under the pump all night and the pressure finally told. And you're unlikely to see a better seven minutes of rugby for the rest of 2015 than the seven minutes that followed that penalty try.

Dan Carter, Israel Dagg and Nadolo each grabbed five-pointers; the Fijian flyer's was the pick of the bunch as, tip-toeing down the touchline, he was forced to kick ahead and, with the precision of the far more renowned left boot inside him, did so that the ball would eventually trail back towards him. Try time in the corner.

Nadolo's importance to the Crusaders should not be underestimated. He is every bit as crucial as the swathe of All Blacks on their roster. The Fijian's power with ball-in-hand gets the Crusaders on the front foot; his superb skill set is a bonus.

Matt Todd was everywhere, and it's crazy to think a player of his quality may not feature at the Rugby World Cup. A wonderful draw-and-pass put Dagg in the clear, and the All Blacks fullback never looked back.

Back-rower Jordan Taufua would finish with a double while Carter later grabbed a second himself in a personal 27-point haul. What had been a 14-11 deficit finished in a 57-14 flogging; all inside 33 minutes.

But it was le Roux's sin-binning that set things in motion; the incident may just have woken Blackadder's side from their early-season slumber. And not before time either.

The red-and-blacks have now headed across the Indian Ocean for games against the Bulls and Sharks, who have each won their past two encounters. For the first 47 minutes of Saturday night's clash in Christchurch, they would have watched with little concern. But it was a different story 33 minutes later. Unlike Crusaders fans, however, they won't be thanking little Willie le Roux.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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