Crusaders 33 Blues 24

A lot of the talk before this match between two old rivals was about the apparent curse of the Blues No10 jersey.

Instead, it was another incredible Crusaders comeback, their third in three games, and one that featured yet again an incredible feat of composure and resilience, which will make the headlines.

This was nothing short of astonishing. There was little wrong with the performance of the Blues pack, who came in for a fair bit of criticism last week after their lacklustre effort against the Highlanders, but they were simply over-run in the second half.

Nor was there much wrong with No10 Piers Francis, a man who has been given his chance ahead of Ihaia West, or centre Rieko Ioane or midfield partner George Moala, both of whom were outstanding in the first 40 minutes.


There was especially nothing wrong with the performance of Blues halfback Augustine Pulu, who had a superb first half and looked to have got the Blues home at halftime with a lead of 21-5.

No, this was a story of another uncanny comeback from a side who came from a 17-point deficit against the Reds in Brisbane, and a 21-point gap to the Highlanders in Dunedin.

Surely it was too much to ask for them to do it again against a Blues team who led 21-5 at halftime? Especially without the attacking talents of Israel Dagg and Seta Tamanivalu, and late withdrawal of centre Jack Goodhue? Not a bit of it. This Scott Robertson-coached team simply doesn't know when it's beaten, and so, after first-half tries from visitors George Moala (two) and Pulu, came the fightback.

Wing Manasa Mataele, who had the honour of replacing his uncle Tamanivalu, scored for the Crusaders to give them hope, and they showed at the end of that first half with a slight momentum shift there something might have been brewing.

Well, brewing it was. First there was a Pete Samu try from a lineout drive, and to be fair to the Crusaders, they looked dangerous here throughout, and then replacement hooker Ben Funnell scored from close in and No10 Mitch Hunt, the Crusaders' hero from last weekend at Suncorp Stadium when he kicked the penalty after the final siren, went over for a try which he converted.

That gave the home side the lead, and there was a sense of inevitability about the remaining 10 minutes or so. The Blues were out of it, and it was almost a matter of how much the Crusaders would win by. Halfback Mitchell Drummond provided the icing on the cake with a late converted try, and their comeback was complete.

The Blues, having bossed the play in the first half with an attacking intent which included turning down two kickable penalties, were almost reduced to the role of spectators in the end. They were far better than against the Highlanders, but this defeat will hurt badly.

"We knew we had to come down here and play and unfortunately we didn't come out swinging in the second 40 minutes, Blues captain James Parsons said. "They're fighters, we knew that, we've seen that in rounds one to three."

The Blues have now lost their last six matches to the Crusaders, and haven't won in Christchurch since 2004. Their search for a winning formula, after last tasting success this season in round one against the Rebels in Melbourne, continues.

For the Crusaders, their dream run, albeit a charmed one, carries on.

Crusaders 33 (Manasa Mataele, Pete Samu, Ben Funnell, Mitch Hunt, Mitchell Drummond tries; Hunt 4 cons)
Blues 24 (George Moala 2, Augustine Pulu tries; Piers Francis 3 cons, pen)
Halftime: 21-5