Wounded Crusaders unleash on bumbling Blues
Auckland - The Crusaders returned to winning ways with a clinical 25-8 victory over the Blues at Eden Park on Friday, extending their winning streak over the hosts to 11 matches.
Super Rugby's defending champions, coming off a shock loss to Chiefs last week, scored three tries to one in a dominant display.
"We had a bit of hurt that was bottled up inside us and knew we had to start well and play for the full 80," Crusaders captain Scott Barrett said.
The Blues last won against the 10-time champions in early 2014 but coach Leon MacDonald - desperate for success against the club he represented for 12 years - was talking up their chances before the match.
It counted for nothing as knock-ons and mistakes in the set-piece meant the Blues failed to convert their superior possession into points.
"We just couldn't capitalise on anything and they just managed to do what they do," a frustrated Blues skipper Patrick Tuipulotu said after his side fumbled six lineouts.
Tuipulotu helped the Blues make a strong start, spinning out of a tackle to score the opening try when Stephen Perofeta's chip kick opened up the defence.
The Crusaders hit back when wing George Bridge gathered a one-handed Jack Goodhue offload and crossed the line in the 27th minute.
They were unlucky not to get another when Sevu Reece broke through a few minutes later, with only a last-gasp tackle from Perofeta restricting the Crusaders' lead to 11-5 at half-time.
Tries to Richie Mo'unga and Goodhue after the break saw the Crusaders race to a 25-8 lead, with a Will Jordan effort ruled offside.
The Blues tried to rally but the Crusaders' relentless defence held them out, preventing a consolation try after the siren.
In next weekend's action, the Blues travel to South Africa to face the Bulls in Pretoria (Saturday, February 22 - 17:15), while the Crusaders host the Highlanders in Christchurch (Friday, February 21 - 08:05 SA time).
Try: Patrick Tuipulotu
Penalty: Harry Plummer
Tries: George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Jack Goodhue
Conversions: David Havili (2)
Penalties: Havili (2)
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 (captain), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe
Substitutes: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Tom Robinson, 20 Tony Lamborn, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Emoni Narawa
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 (captain), 3 Oliver Jager, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 George Bower, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Sione Havili, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Will Jordan