'Nervous' Israel Dagg explodes in bonus-point win for Crusaders over Jaguares

Israel Dagg was so nervous before the Crusaders' 32-15 bonus-point win over the Jaguares on Friday night he couldn't contemplate grazing on any solid foods.

Instead the fullback, who was making his Super Rugby comeback after suffering a serious shoulder injury almost six months ago, chose the liquid option.

Maybe Dagg should stick to that routine for the remainder of the season, because he was TNT on attack as he scored two tries against the touring side from Argentina at AMI Stadium. The message was clear: he is far from washed-up and if this is what can do after such a lengthy layoff, imagine what the 49-test veteran could do once he really gets into the groove.

I was real nervous, I couldn't really eat. I had some food at lunchtime but at 3.30pm I couldn't really eat, so I just had a smoothie shake," Dagg said about his pre-match feeding habits. "But I was chomping at the bit, just to get out there. It was a perfect day to play footy, I just really enjoyed it."

The sight of him grabbing his right shoulder after attempting a steal created some nervous glances in the crowd, but he said he was fine and just took a blow to the joint.

He also attributed his successful comeback to a determination to play what was in front of him and back himself if he was in space, rather than second-guess himself and take a conservative approach.  "My coach told me that nine times out of 10 they (his instincts) are going to be right, so if you are going to do something do it at 100 per cent

"I don't want to get too carried away. It was just one small step for me ... A step in the right direction."

Dagg could have eased his way back by letting his mate Ryan Crotty, in his 100th game, steal the applause; instead the 27-year-old produced a man-of-the-match performance before being subbed in the 64th minute, proving to the All Blacks selectors he deserves to be closely monitored this season.

Dagg had been parked in the rehabilitation ward for so long you forgot how impressive he can be when he twists the ignition key and guns his motor.

He swept off the dust covers from the outset, earning an assist for his inside pass to Andy Ellis, who scored the first try of the match, and then swept through the tackle of Jaguares left wing Emiliano Boffelli to get on the score sheet himself.

Then, in the 63rd minute, Dagg plunged a fat cherry on the cake with a scintillating run that led to his second five-pointer.

From about 40m out he accelerated on to the right edge of the backline, brushed through a couple of defenders and then lit-up his rockets to burn past another to score near the corner.

This effort from the Crusaders, notably in the opening 65 minutes, didn't lack for the entertainment factor.

They lost a couple of lineouts, and loosehead prop Joe Moody seemed hard done-by with a couple of scrum penalties against the wily Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, but that was countered by them audaciously making the ball sing through the backline and their loose forward unit of Kieran Read, Matt Todd and Jordan Taufua worked furiously in defence.

Halfback Ellis got a rousing roar of approval from the 13,500-strong crowd when, having taken exception for the way he was bustled on the ground, jumped to his feet and swung a paw at the towering Guido Petti.

The right cross collected more fresh air than flesh, and referee Craig Joubert sensibly only penalised the feisty Ellis who few minutes later got rolled as Jaguares No 8 Facundo Isa peeled off the front off the lineout to score.

The Jaguares, to their credit, didn't curl up; their lineout drives were impressive and they grabbed a couple of tries but the turnovers killed them and they were unable to stick the fast game employed by the home side.

Playmaker Richie Mo'unga's goal kicking wasn't flash but he ran well at the line. He scored his fourth try of the season when the Jaguares were reduced to 14 men, although it was his strength, rather than a mis-match in the defensive line, that led to his score; fullback Joaquin Tuculet had been yellow carded for a professional foul, so when centre Jeronimo de la Fuente was forced to race back he was exposed.

Perhaps it was no great surprise, then, that Jaguares captain Agustin Creevy felt compelled to give a blood-and-guts speech in the sheds at halftime. It was to no avail.

Crusaders 32 (Israel Dagg 2, Andy Ellis, Richie Mo'unga, Kieran Read tries; Mo'unga 2 con, pen) Jaguares 15(Facundo Isa, Gonazalez Iglesias tries; Juan Martin Hernandez con, pen). HT: 22-3