Carlos Spencer came to the fore as the 1997 Blues claimed a 24-14 victory over the 2019 Crusaders in Game 7 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 7 of the 32-team knockout tournament, with the home side claiming the victory after 23% of voters backed them to win by between six and 10 points in Auckland.
The mercurial Spencer, an instrumental part of the Blues’ charge towards the 1997 Super Rugby title, showcased many of his tricks in this clash, complemented by his educated boot.
The result eliminates the 2019 Crusaders from the tournament while the 1997 Blues advance to the round of 16, where they will face the winner of Game 8.
A star-studded Blues lineup that won 10 straight matches in the 1997 season proved too strong for Richie Mo’unga and the Crusaders. Spencer’s sleight of hand and sharp decision-making set up tries from No 8 Zinzan Brooke and wing Brian Lima, and the influential pivot added the extras to an early penalty to give them a 17-0 lead at the break.
The Crusaders briefly threatened a comeback after Mo’unga twice unlocked the defence to send Sevu Reece over for a quick-fire double that made it a three-point game.
However, their hopes were extinguished when, in the final 10 minutes of the match, a perfectly weighted Spencer cross-kick found Eroni Clarke out wide, and the centre dotted down to deny the Crusaders.
1997 Blues – Tries: Zinzan Brooke, Brian Lima, Eroni Clarke. Conversions: Carlos Spencer (3). Penalty: Spencer.
2019 Crusaders – Tries: Sevu Reece (2). Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (2).
1997 Blues – 15 Adrian Cashmore, 14 Brian Lima, 13 Eroni Clarke, 12 Lee Stensness, 11 Joeli Vidiri, 10 Carlos Spencer, 9 Ofisa Tonu’u, 8 Zinzan Brooke (c), 7 Michael Jones, 6 Mark Carter, 5 Robin Brooke, 4 Leo Lafaiali’i, 3 Craig Dowd, 2 Sean Fitzpatrick, 1 Olo Brown.
Subs: 16 Jeremy Stanley, 17 Michael Scott, 18 Dylan Mika, 19 Charles Riechelmann, 20 Paul Thomson, 21 Andrew Roose.
Coach: Graham Henry
2019 Crusaders – 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Mitchell Dunshea, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 George Bower, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchel Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Will Jordan.
Coach: Scott Robertson