at Polson Bridge
Cornish All Blacks 32 Crusaders 10
The Cornish All Blacks did the double over Dings Crusaders in style at Polson, bagging a four-try bonus point and proving their current National Two South record of seven victories from eight outings was down to consistent form, not luck.
The 32-10 victory moved the Launceston outfit up into sixth place. They posted one of their best away wins (30-19) at the Bristol club in September and went even better in this return game.
Their success was more significant than might be thought, because the visitors had also been on a bit of a roll, with a fine home win over second-placed Henley Hawks in mid-December, and are known for their big pack and physicality.
They also boasted the league's top points-scorer and most successful kicker in full-back Mark Woodrow. That said, the All Blacks' head coach Cliff Rainford has been working overtime to forge a well-coordinated team that sticks to its game-plan, makes its first-up tackles and maintains momentum for the full 80 minutes, not just for an hour.
Recent results amply reflect Rainford's efforts. He said of Saturday's triumph: "It was a very good performance and we got two scores from the wing and another by the second row.
"It really was a great result and in the first half we gave away only one penalty. We kept our heads and our discipline, and we stuck to our game-plan."
Man-of-the-match, scrum-half Richard Friend, who likes to play close to his pack, was on cracking form, always poised at the breakdown to launch attacking moves; wing Richard Bright, who is becoming adept at following up and beating defences to the line, crossed twice; the pack gave the visiting eight a lesson in driving-maul technique; and Friend and fly-half Jake Murphy are developing into an impressive halfback combination.
The All Blacks attacked relentlessly from the off and spent most of the first 40 in Dings territory.
Leading 20-3 at the break they were, if not clear and away, certainly scenting victory; by the hour they had it in the bag, well ahead, at 32-3.
Dings' big forwards showed flashes of power and drive but after the interval found themselves driven yards backwards time and again, and their rangy backs, in stark contrast to the pacy and inventive home three-quarters, hardly launched a move all match.
Frustration duly earned them a yellow card for hooker David Wheeler in the 25th minute (offside and pulling down the maul), and, just before half-time, a red for centre Sam Cox for a flurry of punches on Murphy, which ended with the fly-half lying dazed at the bottom of a free-for-all pile-up.
Some ill-discipline just after the hour also saw the All Blacks' try-scorer, lock Ben Hilton, sin-binned.
Friend shot away infield from a ruck and was almost over before Murphy jinked inside from a maul and sent Hilton over at the posts.
Full-back Kieron Lewitt, who yet again could hardly miss with the boot (three conversions and two penalties) added the extras and kicked a penalty after Wheeler's indiscretion; Friend hacked astutely along the wing with Bright racing through to score; and Woodrow and Lewitt traded penalties after the half hour.
The ball was becoming as slippery as soap in the relentless rain, but from the re-start the All Blacks, with the elements now at their backs, carried on where they left off.
Bright kicked downfield, the pack drove fast-forward from the line-out, and Friend shot away to score.
Dings' forwards then mounted a short-lived spell of attack but several attempts at a pushover in the corner were met with a wall of defence, and it was as-you-were when Bright hoofed it along the touch and raced 30 yards to bag his second. 32-3.
Late on Dings were surprisingly awarded a penalty try from a collapsed pushover attempt (converted by Woodrow) – but it must have brought them scant consolation.