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Powerful finish from fired-up Crusaders too much for Blues

AFP/Wellington
Filed on July 11, 2020
Victory in the intense clash, left the Crusaders the only unbeaten team. -- Twitter

The Crusaders are now undefeated in their last 36 games at their home fortress where the Blues have not won since 2004.

The Canterbury Crusaders, stung by what they felt was a dubious refereeing decision, stormed back to beat the Auckland Blues 26-15 and maintain a phenomenal home record in Christchurch on Saturday.

Victory in the intensely physical top-of-the-table clash in New Zealand's Super Rugby Aotearoa competition, left the Crusaders the only unbeaten team.

The Crusaders are now undefeated in their last 36 games at their home fortress where the Blues have not won since 2004.

The Blues saw a chance to rewrite history when they won a scrum penalty 15 minutes into the second half and took a quick tap which produced a try to Rieko Ioane, extending their lead to 15-9.

The referee rejected the Crusaders argument that they should have had the penalty because they had the superior scrum and the Blues were going backwards.

Incensed, the Crusaders charged down Otere Black's conversion -- a rarity in Super Rugby -- then cranked up the tempo to a pace the Blues could not stay with to retake control with a storming final quarter with two tries and a penalty.

"We saw it as a Test match," said Crusaders captain and All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor, while adding that even when they were behind on the scoreboard they remained confident.

"That was hard fought. They were on top for most of the game, really, but we knew if we came out in the second half and won those little moments we would get the job done."

Blues skipper Patrick Tuipulotu said they could not keep up in the final quarter.

"We seemed to be in it for three quarters then they applied pressure and kept us in our half".

As for the disputed penalty, Tuipolotu admitted the Crusaders were "probably the best set-piece team and it showed the way they put pressure on us".

The Blues, on a seven-match winning streak, their best unbeaten run since they won 12 in succession in 1997, rattled the Crusaders at the start and were immediately on the front foot with a Mark Talea turnover.

Ten minutes into the game, they put first points on the board when a long cut-pass from Otere Black saw Talea score in the corner.

The Crusaders were not short of possession but an impenetrable Blues defence coupled with their own errors saw the Blues winning psychological battles.

It took almost half an hour before the defending champions moved the scoreboard with two quick penalties by Richie Mo'unga.

At half-time the Blues led 7-6 but were on the wrong side of the penalty count 8-3.

Black and Mo'unga traded penalties early in the second half before Ioane's try gave the Blues a six-point lead.

But when it came to the final quarter, the fired-up Crusaders proved untouchable.

They produced converted tries to Mitchell Drummond and Will Jordan, plus another penalty from Mo'unga while keeping the Blues scoreless.


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