Super 14
Blues and Crusaders notch pre-season victories
January 30, 2009
The Blues' Anthony Tuitavake evades the Reds' defence, Blues v Reds, Super 14 pre-season trial, Trusts Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand, January 30, 2009
The Blues' Anthony Tuitavake evades the Reds' Peter Hynes during their clash in Auckland © Getty Images

The Blues emerged on the right side of the ledger in their latest Super 14 pre-season match - beating the Queensland Reds 26-24 at Waitakere.

Pat Lam's side, who lost their previous warm-up matches 19-14 to the Hurricanes and 21-17 to the Chiefs, bounced back from a ragged first half, boosted by the injection of a trio of All Blacks.

Isaia Toeava, Jerome Kaino and Tony Woodcock all made their first appearances of 2009 and helped their team overcome a 14-7 halftime deficit. Both teams scored four tries but the Blues kicked three conversions to the two of the Reds, who were fielding a host of unfamiliar players in their new-look squad.

Among the visitors was Daniel Braid, the long-serving Blues openside flanker who has crossed the Tasman this season. Braid was an influential figure before being replaced at halftime, playing a hand in tries to first five-eighth Quade Cooper and centre Anthony Faingaa.

The home side's only points in the first stanza was an early try to fullback Paul Williams. They lifted their intensity and played more conventionally for territory after the break, pulling away through tries to flanker Kaino, winger Rene Ranger and halfback Taniela Moa.

The Reds crossed for the final two tries, through bollocking No.8 Leroy Houston and winger Blair Connor. The Blues' fourth and final pre-season match will be against the Highlanders in Albany on Thursday.

Elsewhere, the Crusaders once again staged a late comeback to beat the Highlanders 40-17 in their clash in Timaru.

It was ultimately a convincing victory but it took the arrival of 10 reserves to turn the game for the Crusaders, who trailed by 17 points at the start of the second third. They scored 40 unanswered points from there. Last week against the Western Force in Perth the Crusaders came from 14 points down to run out winners and the arrival of super-subs such as All Blacks Richie McCaw, Brad Thorn, Kieran Read and Ben Franks made the difference tonight.

Fullback/wing Jared Payne, also a reserve, had a hand in the first three tries for the Crusaders and scored the final try. He showed pace and awareness to set up lock Isaac Ross, flanker Read and inside back Stephen Brett for five-pointers. Prop Wyatt Crockett, another reserve, scored the fourth try for the Crusaders.

The defending champions were down 0-10 with 15 minutes on the clock, an early Daniel Bowden penalty and converted David Hall try punishing a scratchy start littered with many errors. Near the end of the first 30, the Crusaders finally exerted some dominance on attack but a promising move ended with a high elbow from Steven Stephano to Crusaders flanker Jonathan Poff which led to 10 minutes in the sin bin for the Highlanders No 8 and medical treatment for Poff.

A Brett break at the start of the second 30 hinted at better things to come for the Crusaders. However, it was Bowden who opened the scoring in the second 30, the first-five capitalising on series of Highlanders attacks to ghost over in a tackle near the posts.

After that it was one-way traffic for the Crusaders. Payne was a standout for them, with Colin Slade also shining at first five. For the Highlanders, new captain Jimmy Cowan lead from the front as usual from halfback.

Pre-season results:

Blues 26 (Paul Williams, Jerome Kaino, Rene Ranger, Taniela Moa tries; Michael Hobbs 2 con, Jimmy Gopperth con) Reds 24 (Quade Cooper, Anthony Faingaa, Leroy Houston, Blair Connor tries; Cooper 2 con) Halftime: 7-14

Crusaders 40 (Isaac Ross, Kieran Read, Ryab Crotty, Stephen Brett, Wyatt Crockett, Jared Payne tries; Colin Slade 5 con) Highlanders 17 (David Hall, Daniel Bowden tries; Bowden pen, 2 con). First third: 0-10. Second third: 14-17.


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