Nadolo spurs Crusaders to victory

Date published: April 25 2015

The Crusaders bounced back with a 29-15 triumph over the Blues as they led from start to finish in Christchurch.

A passing masterclass was at the heart of the Crusaders success, with Nemani Nadolo the star of the show.

On a weekend where they had to win and ideally with four tries or more to have any hope of staying in the playoff hunt, the Crusaders came good.

It's been a mixed campaign for the seven-time champions after a typical slow start, but their demolition job on the Sharks in Durban not so long ago proved to be a false dawn.

Playing as they did on Saturday however, albeit against a poor Blues outfit, they issued a reminder of how much talent they possess and also that doing the basics well is an undervalued quality.

Nadolo was the inspiration for both of the Crusaders first-half tries. The mere presence of the Fijian giant had the Blues defenders thinking twice before committing and he exploited it ruthlessly.

That first moment of hesitation enabled Nadolo to make space on his outside for Ryan Crotty, with the All Black centre showing great composure keeping the ball in two hands before releasing Mitchell Drummond on his inside as the scrum-half went over untouched for the first try in only the second minute of the match.

Knowing they had to bounce back after a disappointing few weeks, the Crusaders played with plenty of tempo and showed some excellent handling as they dominated territory.

Nadolo looked in for all money when he was released into space down the left touchline, but he showed some real subtlety by drawing in the last two defenders before a short pass put Jordan Taufua in for try number two.

The Crusaders were helped by a fairly average Blues defence, with basic mistakes being made and more leadership required from their senior players at half-back in Jimmy Cowan and Dan Bowden.

Those two tries had the Crusaders 14-0 up but they switched off defensively when Munster-bound Francis Saili perfectly hit a fine line cutting back on the defence and burst through for a clinical try.

Saili's converted score and an earlier penalty from Bowden brought the Blues back into the contest, with Colin Slade's three-pointer before half-time allowing the home side to settle down.

Nadolo though was unstoppable, setting up Tom Taylor for the third try after making something out of nothing.

Josh Bekhuis wildly hacked the ball clear right into the hands of Taylor, shipping it onto Nadolo who promptly beat Frank Halai down the outside and drew in the covering tacklers before releasing Taylor with another brilliant offload.

Jamison Gibson-Park's introduction was brief after he shown a yellow card for killing the ball with the Blues under pressure chasing back in their 22, as the Crusaders upped the ante in their quest for a try bonus point.

Code Taylor delivered it after more sublime, patient handling from the Crusaders as they spread the ball from left to right to wrap up the result before 60 minutes.

All eyes on were on Richie McCaw after he appeared to suffer a concussion but as the Blues played on they constructed a well-worked score for Brendan O'Connor in the corner to keep the match alive to a degree, as McCaw left the field.

O'Connor's try gave the Blues an injection of belief as they rolled out their bench, but long phases of possession didn't yield any more points.

Keven Mealamu, in possibly his final game at AMI Stadium, received a warm ovation on leaving the field to be replaced by debutant Matt Moulds.

Persistent running from the likes of the impressive youngster Akira Ioane, Hayden Triggs and Saili kept the Crusaders on their toes. 

The final pass or breakthrough just wasn't there for the Blues though, who slumped to a ninth loss of the season. The Crusaders meanwhile have just about kept their ambitions for the season alive with a necessary triumph.

The scorers:

For Crusaders:
Tries: Drummond, Taufua, T Taylor, C Taylor
Cons: Slade 3
Pens: Slade

For Blues:
Tries: Saili, O'Connor
Cons: Bowden
Pens: Bowden

Yellow Card: Gibson-Park

Crusaders: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 David Havili, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett

Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 Kieron Fonotia, 23 Nafi Tuitavake.

Blues: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Francis Saili, 12 George Moala, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Dan Bowden,9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Blake Gibson, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Tevita Li

Referee: Chris Pollock
Assistant Referees: Kane McBride; Jamie Nutbrown
TMO: Chris Wratt