The Crusaders’ superior tactical kicking and set-piece dominance helped them secure a 19-11 win over the Blues at a wet Christchurch Stadium on Saturday. JOHN GOLIATH reports.
It wasn’t vintage Crusaders, but the defending champions consolidated their lead at the top of the New Zealand conference following last weekend’s shock draw against the Stormers. They are now 13 points ahead of the second-placed Hurricanes, who have the weekend off.
The Blues, on the other hand, remain at the bottom of the New Zealand conference after their eighth defeat of the campaign.
Crusaders flyhalf Richie Mo’unga kicked two penalties in the first 15 minutes of the match to give the home side a 6-0 lead. The talented No 10 then set up Bryn Hall’s try with a fantastic little kick into space behind the Blues’ defence, which Ryan Crotty collected before putting the scrumhalf away to score.
The Blues struggled to get out of their own half. A combination of good Crusaders kicking and their own malfunctioning set piece meant that they played on the back foot for most of the match.
Harry Plummer kicked their only points of the first half, before the flyhalf landed another penalty in the 56th minute. Mo’unga kicked his third penalty for the Crusaders in the 58th minute to extend their lead to 16-6.
The Blues finally started to get some possession in the Crusaders’ 22 in the last 10 minutes, and eventually got over the line when All Black wing Rieko Ionane scored in the left corner to make it a five-point game.
However, Mo’unga would kick one more penalty three minutes from time to deny the Auckland team a bonus point.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) May 25, 2019
Crusaders –Try: Bryn Hall. Conversion: Richie Mo’unga. Penalties: Mo’unga (4).
Blues – Try: Rieko Ioane. Penalties: Harry Plummer.
Crusaders – 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 Isi Tu’ungafasi, 18 George Bower, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Ethan Blackadder, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor.
Blues – 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Jonathan Ruru; 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson (cc), 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (cc), 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 Leni Apisai, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Subs: 16 James Parsons, 17 Marcel Renata, 18 Lua Li, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Hoskins Sotutu, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Otere Black, 23 Levi Aumua.
Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images