Crusaders punish Blues in top-of-the-table clash
MATCH REPORT: Crusaders kept their flawless record intact with a 43-27 win over the Blues on Sunday at Eden Park.
It was an intense top of the table clash with both teams scoring four tries apiece.
*For all the drama and action CLICK HERE: Blues v Crusaders
However, the trusted boot of Richie Mo’unga proved to be the difference between the win and defeat.
Mo’unga scored 28 points in a defensive display that set the Crusaders up for another strong run for their fifth consecutive Super title.
While the Blues matched the Crusaders’ four tries, it was their concession of penalties that kept ticking the scoreboard over.
In a clash that featured 20 All Blacks, the Blues were still in with a chance at nine points down with seven minutes remaining.
But when Ofa Tu’ungafasi was yellow-carded, the Crusaders cashed in on the one-man advantage and extended the lead with a further try.
Crusader captain Scott Barrett likened the intense clash to a Test match and it was a relief to get through it.
“Just hanging tough, and turning pressure into points and then holding on for the win. It was a real battle,” he said.
The Blues conceded 16 penalties and captain Paddy Tuipulotu said that proved costly.
“There was a lot of wrongdoing and against a side like the Crusaders you can’t have that and the scoreboard showed it,” he said.
The first three times the Crusaders entered the Blues 22 they moved the scoreboard with two tries and a penalty.
After an early Otere Black penalty had the Blues 3-0, the Crusaders replied with a try to Jack Goodhue following up a well-weighted grubber kick from Bryn Hall.
The Blues regained the lead with a counter-attack try to Blake Gibson after Crusaders wing Leicester Fainga’anuku dropped a pass when he had an open run to the line.
It was not the only passing error to hinder the Crusaders in the first quarter, but once they settled the visitors had the better of the backline match ups and began to dominate territory.
A second visit close to the Blues line and Mo’unga landed a penalty while their third foray resulted in a try to Codie Taylor from a lineout drive.
The Crusaders continued the momentum into the second half with a Mo’unga penalty, two minutes after the resumption, pushing the lead to 20-7.
But there was still in the Blues who struck back when Tuipulotu favoured a lineout over a penalty shot at goal and it produced a try to Kurt Eklund.
But the pressure on the Blues of constantly defending was starting to show as Mo’unga landed three penalties in quick succession.
In the closing stages, Eklund scored his second try to keep the Blues in touch only for Mo’unga to respond for the Crusaders and when Hoskins Sotutu scored for the Blues, a try to Crusaders’ wing Sevu Reece put the result beyond doubt.
Man of the match: Our nod goes to flyhalf Richie Mo’unga and hooker Codie Taylor. Their perfromcne made it impossible to just pick one. Mo’unga boot steered the Crusaders ship. While Taylor hard work up front laid the perfect foundation
Tries: Gibson, Eklund 2 Sotutu
Cons: Black, Plummer
Tries: Goodhue, Taylor, Mo’unga Reece
Cons: Mo’unga 3
Pens: Mo’unga 5
Yellow card: Ofa Tuungafasi (Blues, 75 – dangerous clean-out at the ruck)
Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Harry Plummer, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru; 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (Captain), 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Luteru Tolai, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tom Robinson, 21 Adrian Choat, 22 Finlay Christie, 23 TJ Faiane.
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 David Havili, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Sione Havili Talitui, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 George Bower, 18 Oli Jager, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Fergus Burke, 23 Dallas McLeod
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser & James Doleman
TMO: Brendon Pickerill