Crusaders defeat Blues to press finals claims
May 18, 2013
The Blues were unable to trouble the Crusaders
© Getty Images
The Crusaders turned in a steely performance to claim a decisive, and crucial, 23-3 win over the Blues in Super Rugby Round 14 at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday.
Led by inspirational returning captain Kieran Read and a wonderful defensive performance from Dan Carter, the Crusaders produced sterling lineout mauling play at the most vital stage of the game, around the 50-minute mark, and compelling scrummaging into the final quarter to give off the look of old that has been missing through much of the 2013 season.
The Crusaders, in typical style, made the most of entries deep into Blues territory, and Read marked his return to play with a decisive display of tactical choice at the most crucial moments to turn up the pressure - especially by employing the lineout mauls that produced the vital try by prop Owen Franks.
Blues mistakes did not help the visitors' cause, conceding penalties at vital stages while a penalty awarded just after the Crusaders got out to a 20-3 lead was kicked dead by Chris Noakes; the Crusaders immediately camped in Blues territory after that mistake, and a penalty conceded gifted the hosts another three points to lead 23-3.
The Blues dominated field position in the opening 20 minutes, for no initial reward, while the Crusaders - who were forced into a change immediately before the game when hooker Cory Flynn strained a hamstring, to be replaced by Ben Funnell - made the most of every territorial advantage. Tom Taylor kicked a penalty goal in the 21st minute then Ryan Crotty charged down one an attempted chip kick from Noakes, gathered the ball and ran untroubled from 22 metres to score the opening try. Taylor added the conversion, and the Blues could respond only with a 29th minute penalty goal from Noakes.
Blues lock Calum Retallick was sin-binned right on half-time break, for a deliberate knock-on as the Crusaders attempted a breakout move, and the move cost three points as Taylor landed the ensuing penalty goal.
The Crusaders settled their lineout in the second half, and they claimed a vital advantage by executing well their drives from the set piece; after three well-completed moves in which the Blues were penalised for coming around the mauls, Franks grounded the ball for a converted try that ended any hope the visitors had of claiming victory.
The Blues did produce a 63rd-minute break and Frank Halai looked to ground the ball despite a tackle by replacement fullback Israel Dagg, but the television match official ruled the vision inconclusive. Francis Saili then almost broke through from the ensuing five-metre scrum, but the Crusaders were able to clear and the Blues then failed to trouble their opponents
The Crusaders showed great play-offs credentials (video available only in Australia)
Firdose Moonda talks to Rob Louw about the difficulties of being a South African touring New Zealand at the height of Apartheid
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games