Super 14 - Game of the Week
Second half surge sees Crusaders home
March 6, 2010
The Crusaders' Robbie Fruean breaches the Blues' defence at the AMI Stadium
© Getty Images
The Crusaders recorded their third victory of the Super 14 campaign with a 33-20 victory over the Blues in Christchurch.
Tries from George Whitelock, Ryan Crotty and Robbie Fruean and 18 points from the boot of Dan Carter carried the eight-time champions to victory in an error-strew game at the AMI Stadium dominated by agressive defence. Former Crusaders No.10 Stephen Brett kept the Blues in touch with 15 first-half points but a second half try from scrum-half Alby Mathewson was no more than a consolation.
All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw made his first start for the Crusaders in the unfamiliar No.6 shirt with George Whitelock retaining the openside berth and Kieran Read shifting from blindside to No.8. All Black prop Tony Woodcock was restored to the Blues' starting front row at the expense of Charlie Faumuina while Viliami Ma'afu returned to No.8 for the injured Peter Saili.a
The Blues pack, led by flanker Jerome Kaino, barely took a backward step and they showed their intention in the first act of the game with a surging maul that put the hosts on the back foot. And they were rewarded for their endeavour with the opening points of the game from the boot of former Crusaders fly-half Brett.
An uncharacteristic error from the home side at the re-start meant the Blues were soon on the front foot again and their high tempo approach resulted in another turnover inside the Crusaders' 22. And Brett took the opportunity to double his side's lead with a neatly struck drop goal.
The Crusaders were handed the chance to get on the board moments later when Blues scrum-half Alby Mathewson was caught in possession inside his own 22 and Carter opened his account with the penalty. The Crusaders continued to battle their way back into the game and a high tackle from the Blues' Jerome Kaino allowed Carter to level things up on the quarter hour. But the hosts were penalised at the re-start with Wyatt Crockett guilty of obstruction and Brett restored his side's lead with his third successful kick.
The tit-for-tat exchanged continued thanks to a bit of magic from Carter who ghosted through the Blues' defence on the 22 before passing to Jared Payne who found George Whitelock for the simple try that the Crusaders' No.10 also converted.
A powerful run from Vili Ma'afu then had the Crusaders scampering back and when George Whitelock was penalised for going off his feet, Brett reduced the arrears to one point with the kick.
The Crusaders began to exert some more pressure and a clever kick ahead from scrum-half Andy Ellis was claimed by winger Zac Guildford in the 22 before he was wrapped up by the Blues defence. But the Crusaders turned the screw from the next scrum and when Brett drifted off-side, Carter was able to slot his third penalty.
A long range penalty from the Blues' No.10 closed the gap once more before the break but the Crusaders ended the game on the offensive with Sean Maitland narrowly failing to hold onto a cross kick from Ellis with the visitors' defence wide open.
The errors resurfaced at the start of the second half as both sides probed for an opening and both sides struggled to find a cohesive rhythm with a snatched drop goal effort from Brett summing up a poor passage of play.
The Crusaders eventually broke the deadlock and unsurprisingly it came from another error. Blues winger Rudi Wulf did well to tidy up a kick ahead from Ellis but his wild pass into midfield was picked off by Crotty who strolled over under the posts with Carter adding the conversion.
A poor lineout from the Blues then gifted possession back to the Crusaders on the 22 and some strong running from Brad Thorn and Ellis took the home side close. The Blues were penalised for slowing the ball down and Carter cemented his side's lead with his fourth penalty.
The Crusaders stretched their lead with a powerful break from Fruean carrying the centre through the tacke of Brett for his side's third try. Carted nailed an excellent conversion to put the game out of reach. The Blues rallied bravely with Mathewson grabbing his side's only try when the Crusaders' defence failed to hold him but they were unable to conjure a late turnaround.
The Crusaders' third victory out of four should confirm their place in the top four while the Blues' second loss will see them remain in the middle of the table. The Crusaders face the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday next week while the Blues will cool their heels with a bye.