It’s been a very one sided rivalry in recent times, which is why the Blues’ form in Super Rugby Aotearoa so far injected plenty of anticipation ahead of tonight’s encounter in Christchurch. Two unbeaten teams, the most eagerly awaited match in this most unusual of seasons.
The Blues needed to start strong and they did. Hoskins Sotutu went close to scoring the opening try in the opening seven minutes, but was held up. Just three minutes later though, Otere Black threw a beautiful long pass to Mark Telea on the right wing to score the first five pointer of the night, which Otere Black duly converted.
The arm wrestle over the next quarter of an hour saw the scoreboard operators untroubled until Richie Mo’unga struck back with back to back penalties after 27 and 30 minutes.
The second half started with another spell of Blues pressure, which resulted in Black slotting their first three pointer of the evening after 45 mins, to extend the lead to 10-6.
Then, in the 55th minute, the Blues win a scrum penalty that leads to Akira Ioane taking a quick tap which ultimately saw his brother Rieko cross for their second try of the night. Unusually though, Black’s conversion attempt is charged down by Braydon Ennor to deny the extra two points and the Blues lead stands at 15-9.
It soon becomes a valuable piece of work as a lovely break by George Bridge down the left wing results in a try for replacement Mitchell Drummond on the hour mark. With Mo’unga converting and then slotting another penalty seven minutes later, suddenly the Crusaders are on top at 19-15.
Will Jordan, one of the players of the season so far and with two tries against the Highlanders last week, was tonight a replacement, but as so often, the Crusaders coaching staff seem to get these decisions right. Off the bench and in the right place at the right time, he went over after 76 minutes to seal victory, with another Mo’unga conversion making the final score 26-15.
On a cold Christchurch night where Corey Flynn brought his electric blanket, the action on the field warmed everyone up. A tough battle, but ultimately the Crusaders were worthy winners. The Blues are getting close and are undoubtedly the second best team in the competition, but Carlos’ try will be shown for another year at least as the long wait for victory in Christchurch goes on.
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