Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Blues crush Crusaders

The Blues celebrate a try scored by Frank Halai during the round 3 Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Crusaders. Photo / Getty Images.
The Blues celebrate a try scored by Frank Halai during the round 3 Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Crusaders. Photo / Getty Images.

Blues 34
Crusaders 15

The Blues passed a heavyweight exam tonight as they soaked up all the competition benchmark Crusaders could throw at them then surged to an exhilarating victory.

They might have got a break with the Crusaders first round bye, as while there were glimpses of the visitors' quality they were not as sharp as they wanted.

Nine minutes from the finish they were denied a try because the television match official ruled Israel Dagg had had several dabs at the line.

As the controversy continued, replacement Blues five eighths Baden Kerr chipped the Crusaders line, George Moala retrieved and hammered 65 metres to the tryline.

Energy and commitment were the Blues' keys in their 34-15 victory and the five tries to none margin a massive statement about their potential.

It has been a great start to the series for the Blues as a 31,014 crowd watched them open up and dominate much of the first half. They held their possession and made headway with a variety of plays.

In the backs they had Charles Piutau running it back from fullback, Rene Ranger charging through midfield or Chris Noakes mixing up his kick, run, pass strategies with decent effect.

Up front Luke Braid was everywhere, Charlie Faumuina rumbled big time and Tom McCartney held his scrum and then worked like a devil around the ark.

The weight of possession told as the Blues ran in three tries before te interval, two to Frank Halai to go with the brace he had last week and another to Steven Luatua.

Where skittery and uncertain were Blues traits last season, they began their first match on Eden Park with enough initial purpose and varied accuracy to suggest better prospects ahead.

Where they might have been tempted to throw 50-50 balls they were prepared to take play through one more phase.

They found some cracks too in the Crusaders defence.

They prised them open down the middle and pulled enough defenders into close contact to send the ball to the flanks where the opening half tries were scored.

Piri Weepu lobbed a wide pass to Luatua for the first, sensible passing to the flank gave Halai his first and then a deft lob punt from Noakes gave the wing his second.

Just once the Crusaders threatened the Blues line and that was in the shadow of halftime.

Instead they relied on Daniel Carter to convert all four penalty attempts as they clung to an eight-point deficit at the interval. It was not an insurmountable lead especially for a team with the Crusaders pedigree.

Yet they had looked a shade uncertain, just a half a step behind the vibrant style the Blues had produced. Somehow they needed to find a resurgence and grab some possession to reignite those hopes.

They began with another Carter penalty as he third quarter developed into a rugged dogfight.

Blues left wing Moala surged close but was repelled, Weepu missed another penalty and those chances looked as if they would be costly.

However, the Blues were not done. They kept raiding, working hard at the breakdown and making their tackles .

Openside flanker Luke Braid was being ferried to and from the sidelines for medical assessments on a possible concussion then a range of wounds.

He kept coming back to the action and as the Blues battered once more at the tryline and Faumuina came up a grassblade short, Braid pounced and planted the ball for the try.

Blues 34(Steven Luatau, Frank Halai 2, Luke Braid, George Moala tries; Piri Weepu, con, pen, Chris Noakes 2 con)
Crusaders 15 (Daniel Carter 5 pen)
Halftime 20-12 (Blues)

- NZ Herald

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