The Crusaders battered the Blues 29-6 in the penultimate round of Super Rugby Aotearoa at Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch.
The comfortable bonus-point victory sees the Crusaders top the Super Rugby table, giving Scott Robertson’s men a home final.
This defeat to the defending champions is the Blues’ 14th loss in a row against the Saders, and they never looked like winning.
The Blues cannot make the final after this brutal takedown, and will have to go back to the proverbial drawing board.
The Crusaders scored four tries to nil. Will Jordan bagged a brace, while Sevu Reece and Codie Taylor also crossed for the home team, who booked a home final (as they always seem to do).
Richie Mo’unga had an off-day from the tee but scored nine points. As always, he played a role in his team’s tries and is the fulcrum of the Saders’ attack.
Otere Black could only muster two penalties as the Blues buckled in the Christchurch sunshine.
This was an epic fail by Leon MacDonald’s side, who never looked like scoring. They were poor with ball-in-hand, mistake-ridden, and blunt in attack.
Their defending was shoddy as the Crusaders danced through weak tackles to take control of the contest from the beginning.
The Blues could have played for another 80 minutes and still not crossed their host’s try line.
After a couple of disappointing displays in recent weeks, Robertson’s men looked back to their best as they taught their opponent’s a lesson.
The game was over in the first half, notwithstanding the Crusaders’ 12-point lead
The Crusaders kept the Blues scoreless in the first half, going into the shed 12-0 ahead. In truth, it should have been more.
Mo’unga missed a second-minute drop-goal, conversion, and a penalty. David Havili also missed a long-range kick after the siren sounded.
Tries from the electric Jordan and the powerful Reece saw the hosts take control of the game despite the visitors having the better of the possession and territory stats in the first stanza.
Mo’unga converted Jordan’s sublime fifth-minute finish after the fullback beat two tacklers, and slipped another two on a mazy run to the try line.
Harry Plummer missed a 13th-minute penalty before Hoskins Sotutu had a try chalked off because the big number eight got tackled short of the try line, and was then held up.
The Blues had several decent opportunities to score, but mistakes continued to hamper them. A costly error inside their 22 led to Reece’s score before the half-hour.
Mo’unga and Havili missed late penalties but the champs had a solid lead going into the break.
The Crusaders increased the tempo, and the Blues folded in the second stanza
Otere Black sandwiched a Mo’unga penalty to make it 15-6 six minutes into the second half as both teams fell foul of the referee.
Black missed a 56th-minute penalty after Taylor again fell foul of referee James Doleman.
And as the Saders do, they go down the field and make the opposition pay for their profligacy.
As the game went on, the home side began to assert their dominance; their driving maul took over, they began to win the breakdown battle, and they took their chances.
Mo’unga’s clearance kick saw the Saders win a penalty, they kicked to the corner, set up a driving maul, and scored.
Taylor –who else – flopped over the whitewash to kill the game as a contest.
Mo’unga’s conversion made it 22-6 on the hour mark.
By now, the Blues looked disinterested. Jordan sealed the deal when he beat Finlay Christie to a Havili grubber-kick to score his second, and the champion’s fourth.
Mo’unga knocked over the conversion, the crowd cheered – job done.
More to follow.
Final Score: Crusaders 29 (12) Blues 6 (0)
Tries – Jordan (2), Reece, Taylor
Pen – Mo’unga
Con – Mo’unga (3)
Pen – Black (2)
Referee: James Doleman
Assistant Ref 1: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 2: Paul Williams
TMO: Chris Hart
15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 12 David Havili, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Sione Havili Talitui, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower
Replacements: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 Tamaiti Williams, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Mitchell Dunshea, 20 Tom Sanders, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Dallas McLeod, 23 Manasa Mataele
15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane (co-captain), 12 Tanielu Tele’a, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Jonathan Ruru; 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii (co-captain), 6 Blake Gibson, 5 Sam Darry, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Marcel Renata, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Taine Plumtree, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Otere Black, 23 AJ Lam