Cape Town - The Crusaders bounced back from their opening round defeat to comfortably defeat the Blues 28-13 in Christchurch.
Thanks to a dominant set-piece the Crusaders were always out in front
of the Blues, who arrived off the back of a morale-boosting win over
the Highlanders looking to secure their first victory in Christchurch
Todd Blackadder's side however controlled possession and territory
throughout, and arguably the scoreline never fully reflected the grip
they held on the contest until the end.
With the lineout firing it was through the scrum that the Crusaders
scored their first try, multiple penalties short of the Blues line
eventually forcing referee Paul Williams to run under the posts and
award a penalty try.
Tries by Kieran Read and Richie Mo'unga late on then wrapped up the
win, with Tevita Li's score in response coming too late to affect the
result, as the Blues paid for coughing up too many penalties and for
lacking a little direction in attack with some aimless kicking.
Mo'unga was again given the nod at fly-half by Todd Blackadder and
the 21-year-old opened the scoring off an early penalty after the Blues
failed to roll away.
Tana Umaga's surprising number of changes, including both his
half-backs, allowed new number ten Matt McGahan to reply for the
visitors with the visitors' first points from a penalty in the 12th
minute to make it 3-3.
A set of energy-sapping phases inside Blues' territory then gave the
Crusaders a chance to strike from the scrum, with Kieran Read poised to
pick up and carry from the base, but after yet another scrum penalty the
referee had seen enough and awarded the penalty try to the hosts.
Mo'unga's attempt to add a drop goal was unsuccessful but the
flyhalf did add a penalty to give the Crusaders a healthy ten-point
advantage at 13-3.
But the hosts left more points out on the field before the break,
Mo'unga failing to land his third penalty before Ben Volavola, on as an
early replacement, couldn't convert a long-range drop goal.
The start of the second half saw the Crusaders turn down three
opportunities to kick more points from penalties as they went after a
second try, putting together impressive phase numbers without ultimately
finding a breakthrough.
Failing to add to their lead, it was then the Blues who chipped back through a penalty from Ihaia West.
Mo'unga had a chance to respond off the tee but he bizarrely hooked
his kick from a simple position, to the point where the ball bounced all
the way wide to the left touchline with Nemani Nadolo almost able to
scoop up and score a try in the corner.
Mo'unga made no mistake with his next effort to restore the
Crusaders' 10-point advantage but they wanted more, and turned to the
excellent Nadolo for inspiration.
The giant Fiji winger bounced off Matt Duffie to get the crowd going
before the Crusaders shipped the ball wide, David Havili make the key
cut infield before offloading to Read for a well-worked try.
Tevita Li's converted try gave the Blues at least a chance going into
the final five minutes, but Mo'unga snuffed out those hopes with an
interception try for his second five-pointer in two games, the Blues'
loose pass typifying an error-filled night for Tana Umaga's team.
The Crusaders meanwhile head into their bye up and running in this
year's competition, with key players still to come back from injury and
many reasons to be optimistic.
Tries: Penalty try, Kieran Read, Richie Mo'unga
Conversions: Mo'unga (2)
Penalties: Mo'unga (3)
Try: Tevita Li
Conversion: Ihaia West
Penalties: Matt McGahan, West
15 David Havili, 14 Jone Macilai, 13 Sean Wainui, 12 Kieron Fonotia, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Tim Boys, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Mike Alaalatoa, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Leon Fukofuka, 22 Ben Volavola, 23 Johnny McNicholl
15 Matt Duffie, 14 Melani Nanai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 George Moala, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Matt McGahan, 9 Billy Guyton, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Jerome Kaino (captain), 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Ofa Tu'ungafasi
Substitutes: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Akira Ioane, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Male Sa'u