THE CRUSADERS CRUISED TO A COMFORTABLE 8-25 VICTORY OVER THE BLUES AT EDEN PARK, AUCKLAND.
JACK GOODHUE AND RICHIE MO’UNGA STARRED, BOTH SCORING A TRY AND HAVING A HAND IN EACH OTHER’S FIVE-POINTERS.
Goodhue also set-up George Bridge’s try with some magic in the first half to cap off a scintillating performance from midfield.
Victory is the 11th on the trot for the Crusaders against the Blues going back to 2014.
The Crusaders averaged a 17-point winning margin in that time, which continued under the lights in the City of Sails.
The Blues have now lost 26 of their last 29 New Zealand derbies, a dismal return for the struggling Auckland franchise.
Their set-pieces were abysmal and their handling poor, especially in the attacking zone, and the visitors made them pay for their wastefulness.
Scott Robertson’s side scored three tries to one in a clinical display which we have come to expect from the 10-times Super rugby champions.
Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu crashed over from close range in the sixth minute to open the scoring.
The home team dominated territory and possession but their set-pieces were a mess, and they trailed by six points at the break.
David Havili kicked two penalties either side of Bridge’s 25th-minute score after a slick pass from Jack Goodhue gave the visitors the lead.
The Crusaders’ lead could have been more but for some handling errors and ill-discipline inside the Blues’ 22, and the wayward boot of Havili.
The fullback missed the conversion and a late 61-metre penalty attempt after the hooter sounded.
Harry Plummer came on for Matt Duffie, in a tactical switch after the interval, and kicked an early second-half penalty to reduce the deficit to three.
But Richie Mo’unga scored two minutes later after ghosting through a huge hole to extend his team’s lead.
Havili’s conversion made 8-18.
Some more brilliance between Mo’unga and Jack Goodhue killed the game as a contest when Goodhue scored under the posts in the 57th-minute.
BLUES DOMINATE THE STATS BUT FALL BEHIND IN A STOP-START FIRST HALF
Leon MacDonald’s side had the better of possession (60%) and territory (55%) in the first stanza, but mistakes inside the opposition’s half coupled with a shaky set-piece proved costly.
The Blues lost three lineouts on their throw, a scrum, and had their pack beasted a couple of times by the defending champions.
The hosts did strike the first blow.
Stephen Perofeta slipped Oliver Jager’s tackle (who was injured in the play, clashing heads with Cullen Grace) before being tackled by Richie Mo’unga.
The Blues recycled quickly then Tuipulotu, who used his strength to reach over the chalk to score. It was a fantastic try that went 10 phases.
Havili put the ‘Saders on the board before Bridge scored in the corner after Jack Goodhue’s sublime chicken-wing pass after a well-worked lineout move.
Mistakes continued for the Blues, kicking the restart directly into touch; it was the story of the game.
The fullback missed the sideline conversion, but he extended the lead with a 32nd-minute penalty after the ref pinged Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Sevu Reece and Mo’unga both had good chances, but good defending halted the attacks.
Then another lost Blues lineout and a big scrum by the ‘Saders’ pack gave Havili a chance after the siren; however, his long-range kick was shanked well wide.
CRUSADERS PULL AWAY AFTER THE BREAK
Two tries in the third quarter from Richie Mo’unga’s and Jack Goodhue settled the Kiwi derby.
Mo’unga scored under the posts after Plummer’s penalty reduced the gap to three.
The 25-year-old playmaker ghosted through a big hole to score under the sticks in the 45th minute.
The first-five was involved with Jack Goodhue and Michael Alaalatoa, in the build-up, before dotting down under the sticks.
The Blues scrum was a getting beasted, and their lineout fell apart, losing another two throws, making it six from 11, destroying any opportunity of a fightback.
GOODHUE AND MO’UNGA LAND THE KILLER BLOWS BEFORE THE HOUR
Mo’unga again combined with Goodhue.
This time the stand-off knocked back the centre’s deft chip-kick, under pressure from Sam Nock, which put Goodhue away under the posts to finish the game.
Will Jordan thought he had scored, with eight minutes remaining, but he was well in front of the kicker when he started his chase.
Another lost lineout, the Blues’ sixth, gave the visitors an attacking opportunity, but Reece’s kick went out on the full, stopping the counter-attack.
The Blues had their chances but wasted several opportunities on the Crusaders’ goal-line.
The home team could break the red wall, falling to their second loss of the season.
Final Score: Blues 8 (5) Crusaders 25 (11)
Blues – 08
Tries – Tuipulotu
Pen – Plummer
Crusaders – 25
Tries – Bridge, Mo’unga, J. Goodhue
Pen – D. Havili (2)
Con – D. Havili (2)
Blues: 15 Matt Duffie, 14 Jordan Hyland, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Dalton Papali’i, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (c), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe
Replacements: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Tom Robinson, 20 Tony Lamborn, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Emoni Narawa
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Tom Sanders, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Cullen Grace, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Scott Barrett (c), 3 Oliver Jager, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 George Bower, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Sione Havili, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Will Jordan
Date: Friday, February 14
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19:05 local (06:05 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
WEEK THREE Matches
|14 February||Blues v Crusaders||Auckland||08-25|
|14 February||Rebels v Waratahs||Melbourne||9:15 PM|
|15 February||Sunwolves v Chiefs||Tokyo||4:45 PM|
|15 February||Hurricanes v Sharks||Wellington||7:05 PM|
|15 February||Brumbies v Highlanders||Canberra||9:15 PM|
|16 February||Lions v Stormers||Johannesburg||2:05 AM|
|16 February||Jaguares v Reds||Buenos Aires||10:40 AM|