Planet Rugby

Crusaders hold off the Blues

24th February 2012 05:54

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Robbie Freuan crusaders v blues

Crusaders try-scorer: Robbie Freuan

The Crusaders opened their 2012 Super Rugby account with a 19-18 win after edging the Blues in a thriller at Eden Park on Friday.

In a nail-biting finish to a highly entertaining match, the Blues had a chance to steal victory from their visitors at the death with a Piri Weepu drop-goal. However, the replacement pivot's attempt was charged down by wing Israel Dagg and the ball drifted wide.

Heartache for the Blues, but in the end a well-earned win for the Crusaders who take home four valuable points and go top of the New Zealand Conference.

The Blues made the perfect start to the match and at one stage looked to be cruising following early tries from Blues flank Chris Lowrey and wing David Raikuna to lead 12-3 after nine minutes.

However the Blues couldn't cross the whitewash again - with Michael Hobbs only able to add two penalties to his earlier conversion.

Instead, young Crusaders fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal and powerful centre Robbie Freuan combined to steer a superb fightback for the seven-time champions. Freuan topped an all-action display with a try while 21-year-old Bleyendaal held his nerve to land 14 points with the boot.

Lowrey opened the scoring in the fifth minute for the Blues, profiting after Dagg has his kick charged down. Jerome Kaino made a mess of grounding the ball, but Lowrey was right behind him to touch down before the ball rolled over the deadball line.

The Crusaders responded immediately, though, as Super Rugby debutant Bleyendaal slotted over his first penalty of the match.

However, the Blues were soon over for try number two after an initial break from the hugely-impressive Rene Ranger and quick hands from Keven Mealamu ended with Raikuna scoring in the corner.

The shell-shocked Crusaders regrouped brilliantly though and started putting the phases together.

Bleyendaal cut the deficit with a penalty before his conversion of Freuan's try put them in front. And another successful three-pointer saw the Crusaders reach the break 16-12 ahead.

The Blues responded well in the second half - with two penalties from Hobbs handing them a two-point advantage. But Bleyendaal kept his cool to land his fourth penalty of the day to see the Crusaders retake the lead which they didn't relinquish.

The scorers:

For Blues:
Tries: Lowrey, Raikuna
Con: Hobbs
Pens: Hobbs 2

For Crusaders:
Try: Fruean
Con: Bleyendaal
Pens: Bleyendaal 4

Blues: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 David Raikuna, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Michael Hobbs, 9 Alby Mathewson; 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Chris Lowrey, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tom McCartney.
Replacements: 16 Pauliasi Manu, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Brad Mika, 19 Luke Braid, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Hadleigh Parkes, 22 Sherwin Stowers.

Crusaders: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Israel Dagg, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Tom Donnelly, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willie Heinz, 21 Patrick Osborne, 22 Adam Whitelock.

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