Sports

Blues relish epic win over Crusaders as final clutch tackle seals result




The Blues beat the Crusaders 27-23 in a game between New Zealand’s top teams in Super Rugby Pacific on Friday, earning their first win in Christchurch in 18 years.

The Crusaders lost lock and captain Scott Barrett to a red card in the 46th minute as they led 17-10.

With center David Havili already in the sin bin, the hosts were down to 13 men and conceded a converted try that gave the Blues a 24-10 advantage.

But the Crusaders rallied with two second-half tries at winger Sevu Reece to cut the Blues’ lead to four points and finished the game on offense.

A tackle from Blues captain Dalton Papalii and center Rieko Ioane on Crusaders lock Dominic Gardiner in the 78th minute gave the Blues a long-awaited victory.

Gardiner was put into space on the right flank and appeared to have the goal line at his mercy but Papalii, stunned by a previous tackle, got up and with help from Ioane forced him to touch.

“I don’t really have the words. For me, it was quite emotional in those last 10 minutes,” Papalii said.

“The boys just dug deep and I couldn’t have asked more of my guys coming here and doing the job.

“All week we said this was Finals football and the Crusaders had the platform for too many years. To come here and get the win was really special.

In the contest between the No.10 All Blacks, Beauden Barrett for the Blues got the better of Richie Mo’unga for the Crusaders early on and created two tries in the first half.

Fullback Will Jordan scored the first try of the game for the Crusaders from a dominating scrum, combining with Reece who put him into space.

But Barrett smashed the Crusaders defense in the 21st minute to create a try for No.9 Finlay Christie and sparked a shortside move that led to a try from Papali’i in the 31st.

With a two-man advantage, Blues hooker Kurt Eklund scored a try on a lineout in the 47th to give his team a 14-point lead.

Beauden Barrett was then part of a tactical meltdown for the Blues who resorted to an unnecessary and inaccurate kicking game while maintaining a one-man advantage in the second half.

The tactic gave the Crusaders endless counter-attacking opportunities and made Mo’unga his own.

Mo’unga created a 50/22 in the 54th minute and from the lineout a long pass from Argentinian back rower Pablo Matera sent Reece in for his first try.

In the 71st minute, Reece scored again in a move that appeared to feature both a forward pass and a knock-on.

This reduced the Blues’ lead to four points and they were under pressure for the rest of the game, but held on to move top of the table.

© AAP




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