Rugby: Blues hammered... at least it wasn't 60

Ali Williams locked horns with Sam Whitelock last night.  Photo / Getty Images
Ali Williams locked horns with Sam Whitelock last night. Photo / Getty Images

Crusaders 59
Blues 12

Those brave enough to put their hand up to coach the Blues next season will have seen just what a gargantuan task they will be taking on. The new coaching team will be inheriting rubble, a franchise that has collapsed on itself after being exposed for not having any foundations.

This was car-crash stuff: the sort of rugby that had to be watched through the cracks in fingers covering eyes. The score was decidedly ugly even by half-time. The second half at least had some kind of ghoul value - the intrigue of seeing just how bad the Blues could be.

There was never any question it was going to end in record defeat territory. The only unknown was whether it would be total annihilation, or embarrassing without getting humiliating.

It was the former and the Blues have never known times worse than these.

This was the nadir. Surely it was the nadir? Has there been a more painful night for the franchise? Their one salvation of previous rounds, their scrum, went the way of everything else and the Blues had nothing. Zip. They weren't even shadows. They couldn't win the ball. They couldn't stop the endless red waves and it was a long, long 80 minutes. Their two vaunted All Black acquisitions, Piri Weepu and Ma'a Nonu, played as if they were weighed down with regret. Their respective body language and contribution betrayed what they may have been thinking: why had they come to the Blues? How quickly can they scurry back to Wellington?

If they can escape, they will be the lucky ones. For the others, many of them will wake up for months on end, images of this game reducing them to cold sweats. It began badly for the visitors and just got worse.

The ominous feel that somehow boys had ended up playing against men was there from kickoff. The Crusaders, on the back of a shock loss to the Rebels, were never going to be accommodating hosts. An old rival had wondered into town, down on their luck and ripe for the picking: that was rather handy as the Crusaders needed a momentum-changing performance. They have had troubles of their own. Not on the same scale as the Blues, but by standards, they have been someway off the pace.

There was never going to be any sympathy or mercy. The Crusaders needed not just the five points, but an emphatic performance to build the confidence. They wanted to get the basics right. To ensure that the little mistakes they have been making for much of the season were eradicated. Accuracy and momentum will be the keys for the Crusaders in the coming weeks and the Blues, providing such little resistance, were the ideal opponent.

The Crusaders spent nearly all of the game with the ball and were provided with multiple opportunities to run out their gremlins.

Dan Carter will be all the better for the semi-opposed hit out. He was considerably more effective restored to his beloved No 10 jersey. He needs to be the playmaker and heavily involved and it was obvious that he's been holding back in previous weeks. There was more snap to his game. He wanted to be involved, wanted to be pulling the strings and his left leg, idle for so long, had no dramas at all kicking the ball.

He left after 60 minutes and there was no question he walked off happy with his efforts.

The Crusaders' support play was phenomenal and they moved the ball out of contact with some ease. Zac Guildford will have no doubt been aware before the game kicked off that Cory Jane has been ruled out for six weeks and that the All Black door may be open again. Guildford was sharp and tore chunks out of the Blues. And then there was Richie McCaw.

Wearing the unfamiliar No 8 jersey, it didn't matter. He was everywhere and more. Getting old? Didn't look like it.

Crusaders 59 (M. Todd, A. Whitelock, R. McCaw, L. Romano, C. Flynn 2, A. Ellis, Z. Guildford, T. Marshall tries; D. Carter 6 cons; T. Bleyendaal con), Blues 12 (L. Munro 2 tries; G. Anscombe con).

- Herald on Sunday

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