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Crusaders 'ready to launch'

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Sunday, April 22, 2012    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

The Crusaders had a stuttering start to the 2012 campaign but appeared back to their best against the Stormers last week and carried on that good form at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.

They dominated the set-piece and had too much firepower out wide for the Hurricanes, who were hit hard by the late withdrawal of Cory Jane (ankle) and Julian Savea (illness).

"I look back a month ago and we were frustrated because we just weren't getting the performances and the performances weren't good enough to win those big games," said Blackadder.

"There's been a lot of hard work, a lot of persistence and we're getting the rewards. Our guys are ready to launch. It honestly feels like we're just starting. It was really good to see our guys crank into it tonight."

They got off to the perfect start when the ever-impressive Kieran Read raced over the line with barely five minutes gone.

Dan Carter celebrated his 100-game milestone with a try, before Robbie Fruean and Israel Dagg (two) got in on the act too.

"It's a pretty proud moment reaching 100 games but in the back of my mind I wanted to have a good performance out there," said Carter. "The way the guys stepped up, in that first half especially, made it an awesome night.

"Everything just gelled. We haven't scored too many tries this year but to score four in the first half is awesome.

"Playing 100 games for the Crusaders is really special. To reach this milestone alongside eight others is a real achievement. The performance we put out there tonight was the icing on the cake."

The game as a contest was pretty much over by the 30-minute mark. By then Read, Carter and Fruean had made the Hurricanes pay for some ineffectual kicking and a shaky set-piece.

Although the home side scored tries either side of break to Andre Taylor and Victor Vito they were never able to build any real momentum.

"We really wanted to start well. The Hurricanes, coming off a bye sometimes it can take you a while to get into a game. We really put a big emphasis on starting well," said Carter.

"We did that and we didn't really let our foot off the pedal for the majority of the game which is pleasing."

Dagg, who has been down on confidence and form, looked more like usual self too. He went looking for work and counter-attacking opportunities and the support play between himself and Zac Guildford was superb.

Afterwards he revealed All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had told him just to go out there and be himself in a chat the pair had had during the week.

"He said to get my hands on the ball and just get that excitement when I get my hands on the ball," the fullback said.

"I just tried to get out there and have some fun – do the basics well and not make any errors. I did that and I got some confidence out of the game."

Blackadder was certainly happier with his performance. "He hasn't been playing particularly well and if anything he's been really frustrated," said the coach.

"But he's got his confidence back. He's smiling again and enjoying his rugby. I'm really pleased for him. I thought our whole back three really fired tonight. But I thought Israel Dagg in particular did some great things. It's great to see him back performing as we know he can."