Last Updated: 11/07/20 10:45am
The Crusaders saw off an intense challenge from the Blues in a furious final quarter to complete a 26-15 victory in their vital Super Rugby Aotearoa clash in Christchurch on Saturday.
The home side have now won all four of their Super Rugby Aotearoa matches and ended the Blues’ seven-game winning streak across both Super Rugby and the local competition.
The Crusaders seemed to be sparked into a furious second-half response when centre Braydon Ennor charged down an attempted conversion by Otere Black of a controversial Rieko Ioane try.
Ioane crossed in the 55th minute when his side took a quick tap penalty following an attacking five-metre scrum that appeared to have been wrongly awarded by referee Paul Williams.
Richie Mo’unga then took a quick restart and gathered the ball which resulted in the Crusaders storming back, with scrum-half Mitchell Drummond crossing to give the home side a 16-15 lead, their first of the game.
Mo’unga added his fourth penalty and then Will Jordan scored his fifth try in the last three games to maintain their four-year winning streak at Rugby League Park in Christchurch.
The match had been billed all week as the long-awaited re-ignition of an intense rivalry that stretches back in provincial rugby for more than a century with both teams unbeaten in the New Zealand-only competition.
The near sell-out crowd were not disappointed with the game played at near Test-match intensity with the Blues creating immense early pressure.
The early momentum set up a 10th-minute try by Mark Telea before the Crusaders worked their way into Blues’ territory and forced a string of penalties, which allowed Mo’unga to ensure they were only trailing 7-6 at half-time.
The intensity continued in the second half with Black and Mo’unga trading penalties before Ioane crossed, which only sparked the Crusaders’ furious response.
The Blues had been able to dictate the game for the first three quarters by making good use of their strong ball-carriers, Hoskins Sotutu, Akira Ioane but it was only in the final quarter that the Blues began slipping off tackles and making errors of discipline when they found themselves pinned against their own line.
They were fortunate to be awarded Ioane’s try as the penalty stemmed from a five-meter scrum incorrectly awarded to the Blues for the Crusaders having carried the ball back over their own try-line – the last touch had actually come off a Blues hand.
The Crusaders seemed energized from that moment. Drummond’s try for the lead came when Mo’unga’s long pass found George Bridge in space and the winger passed infield to the scrum-half.
Will Jordan then scored to make sure of victory with five minutes left after running onto a delayed pass from Mo’unga and cutting through the Blues inside defence.