The Blues v the Crusaders rivalry was once the biggest in Super Rugby.
It carried on from the Auckland v Canterbury tradition in the 80s and 90s, a north v south divide which occasionally descended into poor taste - some of the signs paraded around the old Lancaster Park with regards to Carlos Spencer, the brilliant Auckland and Blues first five, were distasteful in the extreme and the details aren't fit for repeating.
But, with the Blues having undergone a slump of 12 years without a title, does this rivalry still stack up? The Chiefs and latterly the Highlanders have caught the imagination more in terms of recent success against the Crusaders, the most successful franchise in the competition with seven titles (the Blues are second equal with three), so how do recent results compare?
Pretty well, actually. Last year is a case in point when the Crusaders shot out to a big lead over the Blues at Eden Park only for the home side to roar back and humiliate the visitors. John Kirwan's men lost the return match in Christchurch 23-3.
Despite the more recent competitiveness of the Chiefs and Highlanders, the Blues still offer a stern challenge to the red and blacks as the following illustrates.
Here are six classic matches between the rivals.
Blues 13 Crusaders 20, Eden Park, 1998
A match which was an essential bedrock of the Crusaders' legacy, which, in recent years, they haven't been able to live up to. The Crusaders had finished dead last in 1996, the first year of the competition, and in mid-table the year after. In 1998, under the guidance of Peter Sloane and Wayne Smith, they won their semifinal against the Sharks in Durban before returning to New Zealand and coming from behind to beat the Blues at Eden Park, helped in no small part by a speculative Andrew Mehrtens' chip kick in the final minutes combined with a cruel (for the Blues) bounce and James Kerr's dive. The Crusaders went on to win two more titles in the next two years, all away from home (Dunedin and Canberra).
Crusaders 29 Blues 38, Lancaster Park, 2004
A match that will live long in folklore thanks to the skill and subsequent try-scoring celebrations of the aforementioned C. Spencer. With the Blues holding a slender lead, Spencer passed a loopy cut-out pass on his own goal-line to Joe Rokocoko, who hared upfield, passing to Justin Collins, who fed the ball inside to Spencer, who crossed untouched. To rub salt into the wounds, Spencer walked the ball over to the right corner flag, put it down, flipped the bird to the howling opposition fans and kicked the difficult conversion to deny the Crusaders a bonus point. Now coaching in South Africa, Spencer told the Press in 2012: "People always remind me about that try, especially the boys over here in South Africa. It always pops up every now and then."
Blues 21 Crusaders 17, Eden Park, 2003
This match, the 2003 final, was the last time the Blues have tasted the ultimate success. They got off to a poor start when hooker Mark Hammett ran over Joe Rokocoko for the opening try and then capitalised on Carlos Spencer dropping the ball cold to score another, only for Doug Howlett to strike back in the second half to put his team in the lead 11-10. Daniel Braid scored from a lineout drive to seal it for the Blues, who also scored a penalty, with Caleb Ralph's try little more than a consolation for the Crusaders.
Blues 24 Crusaders 22, Eden Park, 2011
A round one victory for the Blues that owed much to Keven Mealamu's decision to kick a late penalty for touch, rather than go for goal. From the ensuing lineout, Mealamu himself went over for the winning try when bulldozing through halfback Andy Ellis. The Blues had come back from a 19-6 deficit thanks to tries from Benson Stanley (set up by a brilliant run from Rene Ranger) and Tony Woodcock. It was an epic fightback. The following week the Christchurch earthquake caused the Crusaders' match against the Hurricanes to be cancelled and sent them on the road for the season.
Blues 18 Crusaders 19, Eden Park, 2012
The next year it went the way of the Crusaders in another round one clash. The Crusaders were forced to come back from a 12-6 deficit and did so through a converted Robbie Fruean try and a penalty which put them 16-12 up. Tyler Bleyendaal was welcomed to the big time by a massive hit from Jerome Kaino and the Blues sneaked ahead 18-16 thanks to two penalties only for the Crusaders to come back again. Fruean got one back for the Crusaders by sending Piri Weepu, in his first game for the Blues, flying. After the hooter Weepu, from straight in front, had a dropped goal attempt charged down. Another epic.
Blues 35 Crusaders 24, Eden Park, 2014
The Crusaders shot out to a 17-3 lead thanks to two converted tries to Corey Flynn and Colin Slade, plus a penalty, and the Blues responded just before halftime through Frank Halai and Tevita Li. It was an important intervention. From there it was one-way traffic, the Blues pulling away thanks to two tries in five minutes.