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Crusaders come from behind to beat Blues

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The Crusaders had to come from behind as they beat the Blues 21-26 which moves them to the top of the Super Rugby standings.

Both teams scored two tries each in the match and the result extends the Crusaders unbeaten run against the Blues to five matches.

The Blues defence was courageous throughout the match but the result all but ends their chances of reaching the play offs.

Mathematically the Blues could still qualify but realistically it is unlikely due to the format and the strength of the New Zealand teams in their conference.

Nemani Nadolo celebrated his return from suspension to the Crusaders with a crucial try as they regained control of the Super Rugby standings.

With the competition going into recess after this weekend for the June Test window the Crusaders move to 45 points, three more than the Chiefs who were whipped 45-25 by the Waratahs on Friday

On a stormy night in Auckland, the Crusaders had difficulty breaking down a dogged Blues defence and were far from convincing in the way they eventually overcame the home side.

Fly-half Richie Mo’unga contributed considerably to the victory with 16 points from the boot, and Nadolo, back from a four-week suspension, kept the Blues scrambling with his rampaging runs down the left wing.

But despite the Crusaders having a wealth of possession they only scored two tries as the Blues defence led by Kara Pryor, in his first start, Jerome Kaino and Patrick Tuipulotu shut down a constant wave of attacks.

By making the most of their limited chances, the Blues led 15-10 at half-time but they were unable to hang on as the Crusaders eventually found an extra gear in the second half.

“It took a lot of guts and character from the lads and to be able to control that second half into the wind showed a full team effort,” said captain Kieran Read.

It was a disappointing outcome for Blues skipper James Parsons who left the field with a head knock soon after the break and watched from the sidelines as a possible boilover slipped away.

“Unfortunately it’s the story of our season. We haven’t been able to put a full 80 performance together. We knew if we could bring (defensive) intensity early we would give ourselves a sniff but it was not enough.”

The brute force of Nadolo, teaming up with fullback Israel Dagg made life a nightmare for the Blues in the first quarter and it was only a matter of time before Nadolo scored the first try.

But for the remainder of the first half the Blues defence proved impenetrable and a try and penalty to Ihaia West put the Blues in front 8-7.

The Crusaders briefly regained the lead with a Mo’unga penalty before the Blues struck back with a try to George Moala.

The Blues defence continued to hold at the start of the second half when the Crusaders turned a penalty into a lineout drive only for Blues lock Josh Bekhuis to win the lineout.

Mo’unga and West traded penalties and it took until the 61st minute for the Crusaders to regain the lead when Kieron Fonotia finally unlocked the Blues defence and sent Andy Ellis over for the try.

Mo’unga landed the conversion and two more penalties as the Crusaders finished strongly before a Piers Francis penalty on fulltime secured a bonus point for the Blues.

The Crusaders return to Super Rugby after the June Internationals on July 1 with a historic match against the Chiefs in Fiji which could decide who finishes the season in first place.

The Blues travel to Wellington where they will play the Hurricanes.

Final Score Blues 21 (15) Crusaders 26 (10)

Scorers

Blues
Tries – I.West, G.Moala
Pen – I.West 2, P.Francis
Con – I.West 2
Drop –
Cards –

Crusaders
Tries – N.Nadolo, A.Ellis
Pen – R.Mo’unga 4
Con – R.Mo’unga
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Ref 1:Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 2:Brendon Pickerill
TMO : Glenn Newman

Teams

Blues

Sam Prattley, James Parsons (c), Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Josh Bekhuis, Jerome Kaino, Kara Pryor, Steven Luatua; Billy Guyton, Ihaia West, Tevita Li, Piers Francis, George Moala , Matt Duffie, Melani Nanai.

Replacements : Quentin MacDonald, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Sione Mafileo, Hoani Matenga, Jack Ram; Bryn Hall, Male Sa’u, Lolagi Visinia.

Crusaders

1. Joe Moody, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Owen Franks , 4. Luke Romano, 5. Scott Barrett, 6. Jordan Taufua, 7. Matt Todd, 8. Kieran Read (C), 9. Mitchell Drummond, 10. Richie Mo’unga, 23. Marty McKenzie, 11. Nemani Nadolo ,12. Ryan Crotty,13. Kieron Fonotia,14. Johnny McNicholl,15. Israel Dagg,

Replacements : 16. Ged Robinson, 17. Wyatt Crockett, 18. Mike Alaalatoa, 19. Jimmy Tupou,20. Tim Boys, 21. Andy Ellis,22. David Havili

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