Blues thrash Crusaders at Eden Park
March 1, 2013
The Blues impressed in their defeat of the Crusaders
The Blues have maintained their impressive start to the Super Rugby season, defeating pre-season title favourites the Crusaders 34-15 with a bonus-point performance at Eden Park.
The Aucklanders, dismissed as title no-hopers before the season started, dominated the seven-time champions in all facets of the game to give their supporters early hope they can contend for a fourth Super Rugby title.
They showed a clinical combination of patience, speed of thought and rapier wit in attack, allied with discipline and determination in defence, to outscore the South Islanders five tries to nil - three scored in a particularly impressive first-half performance. The 19-point margin did scant justice to their dominance against subdued opponents.
The Crusaders went close to a try four times in the second half, but they were held up easily on or over the line three times and in truth failed until far too late to stretch the Blues' defensive line.
The Crusaders opened the scoring in both halves, through penalty goals from Daniel Carter, but they were thereon reliant on the fly-half's accurate goalkicking to remain in the contest.
Carter landed five from five penalty goals - in comparison with the lack of accuracy from Blues goalkicker Piri Weepu, who kicked only two from five shots at goal after missing four of nine against the Hurricanes the week previously.
Weepu's lack of accuracy is the only concern for the Blues so far this season, and he was replaced at the kicking tee by fly-half Chris Noakes, who converted Luke Braid's five-pointer in the second half before the half-back was dragged from the field.
Backrower Steven Luatua opened the Blues' account, crossing for a try after collecting a lovely airmail pass from Weepu to round out a patient build-up.
Frank Halai then crossed for two tries, after his brace against the Hurricanes in round two; he scored his first to finish another patient build-up, after a searing midfield break from Rene Ranger, then collected a pinpoint chip kick over the defence from Noakes.
The Blues claimed their bonus point 18 minutes into the second half, Braid dotting down by the posts after another linebreak from Ranger, this time set up by an offload from Charles Piutau.
The Crusaders thought they had scored a try 10 minutes from full-time, but the TMO ruled that Dagg was tackled and held by Ranger short of the line in the left corner and did not release the ball before getting up to ground the ball over the stripe.
The Blues rubbed salt in the Crusaders' wounds with a length-of-the-field try just moments later, after Baden Kerr, a replacement for Noakes, chipped over the Crusaders from inside his own 22; the ball stood up kindly on halfway, where Piutau collected the pill and fed winger George Moala to speed away down the left flank.
The Blues celebrate the first of two tries from winger Frank Halai © Getty Images
© ESPN EMEA Ltd
Toulon's Heineken Cup final victory over Clermont Auvergne may have ended a long title drought for the Top 14 club but two of their players are no strangers to success
We bring you our pick of the best pictures from around the world in the last seven days with the battle for Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup glory taking centre stage
"If you listen carefully you should be able to hear them mining the granite for the statue of a certain Jonny Wilkinson" Graham Jenkins reports from the Heineken Cup Final
Quade Cooper's defence is better than it was 12 months ago and Robbie Deans has erred in omitting him from the core Wallabies squad to play the Lions, Greg Growden writes