The Crusaders cemented their place at the top of the Super Rugby Aotearoa table with a 26-15 victory over the Blues on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The win – the Crusaders’ 12 consecutive downing of the Blues – moved them eight points clear at the top of the table.
For so long it looked as if the Blues would be able to get a stunning victory in Christchurch and end the Crusaders’ 35-game unbeaten run at home. The visitors got into the Crusaders’ faces with an uncompromising defensive effort. An excellent first-half try from Mark Telea gave the Blues an early lead, which they did not relinquish until the late stages of the second half.
The turning point in the match came after Reiko Ioane busted his way over for the Blues’ controversial second try. Crucially, the Crusaders were able to charge down Otere Black’s conversion.
That seemed to give the Crusaders a massive mental boost as for the final 15 minutes the home side were simply relentless. A poor defensive read from Telea enabled Mo’unga to shift the ball wide to release George Bridge, who passed it on his inside to Mitchell Drummond for the breakthrough try.
Unsurprisingly, the decisive touch came from Will Jordan – the star Crusaders player in this tournament who was named on the bench – as the youngster ran an excellent line to dive over the line for the winning try.
Crusaders – Tries: Mitchell Drummond, Will Jordan. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (2). Penalties: Mo’unga (4).
Blues – Tries: Mark Telea, Rieko Ioane. Conversions: Otere Black. Penalty: Black.
Crusaders – 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Mike Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor (c), 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 George Bower, 18 Oli Jager, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Sione Havili, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Fetuli Paea, 23 Will Jordan.
Blues – 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Harry Plummer, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (c), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Subs: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Aaron Carroll, 20 Blake Gibson, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 TJ Faiane, 23 Matt Duffie.
Photo: Getty Images