Planet Rugby

Blues fightback stuns Crusaders

28th February 2014 08:18

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Charlie Piutau in action for the Blues in Super Rugby

Comeback win: Blues

The Blues sealed a come-from-behind 35-24 victory over the Crusaders on Friday, sending the former champions to their second straight loss in 2014.

It was a breathtaking comeback from the hosts as with 30 minutes played the Blues were 3-17 down after Corey Flynn and Colin Slade had crossed.

But with attacking options all over the field, Sir John Kirwan's men put the Crusaders to the sword in the next fifteen minutes either side of half-time as Frank Halai, Tevital Li, George Moala and Jackson Willison scored to pick up the bonus point whilst also turning the match on its head.

29-17 was the scoreline with 33 minutes left in the game and it didn't look like a Crusaders comeback was on the cards as the Blues set up camp in the visiting 22, with Todd Blackadder looking on worryingly as his side looked a shadow of its former self against the Blues.

From the early sparring it had looked like the Crusaders had found form following their disappointing - some would say, self inflicted - defeat to the Chiefs. A try from hooker Flynn set them on their way on fifteen minutes as the returning Kieran Read set him on his way down the wing.

Tom Taylor, in for Tyler Bleyendaal, made it 0-7 before Blues fly-half Simon Hickey cut the gap to four points for less than a minute as the home side were penalised for an offence at the restart. Net result, Taylor sent over another three to leave things at 3-10 on 20 minutes.

The Crusaders were well on top at this point as the Blues' sluggish starts to games looked set to cost them again, which it did on 33 minutes when Slade went through five metres out off set-piece ball. However, there was more than a hint of obstruction on tackler, Willison.

But then came the start of an incredible turnaround in fortunes as when Halai showed his pace before stepping inside for the Blues' first try, the tide quickly turned, with fellow winger Li then reducing the margin to two when he raced down the left from the immediate restart.

Kirwan would've been wanting more of the same from his side - barring a misfiring line-out - and that was what he got when the teams returned. Like last week when they scored on 41 minutes, it was deja vu for the Blues when Moala pounced to put the home side in front.

The Blues were now playing with a swagger and when Piri Weepu's grubber off a scrum five metres out found Willison over the line, Hickey added the extras to make it 29-17 just seven minutes into the second-half. Hickey's penalty on 54 minutes further extended the gap.

It was then a case of soaking up the Crusaders' pressure as they were going to come and come hard in the closing quarter. The Blues ultimately did that sufficiently as only a Ryan Crotty score from the visitors, following a nice offload from replacement Israel Dagg, meant the Blues would hold on for victory that deprived the Crusaders a losing bonus-point.

The Crusaders host the Stormers next week while the Blues embark on their South African tour, starting at the Bulls before going to the Lions full of confidence after this performance.

The scorers:

For Blues:
Tries: Halai, Li, Moala, Willison
Con: Hickey 3
Pen: Hickey 3
Yellow: Luatau (66 mins - not rolling away)

For Crusaders:
Tries: Flynn, Slade, Crotty
Con: Taylor 3
Pen: Taylor

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 George Moala, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid (c), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Tony Woodcock, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Liaki Moli, 20 Brendon O'Connor, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Benji Marshall, 23 Pita Ahki.

Crusaders: 15 Colin Slade, 14 Rob Thompson, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Nafi Tuitavake, 10 Tom Taylor, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Richie McCaw, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Adam Whitelock, 23 Israel Dagg.

Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
Television match official: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

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