Blues end Crusaders’ dominance

The Blues ended the Crusaders’ two-year unbeaten Super 14 run against New Zealand opposition, when they beat the defending champions, the Crusaders, 34-25 on Friday.

The two teams scored three tries each in this Round One match at Eden Park, in Auckland, which was also the opening match of the new season.

But in the end the boot of first five-eighths Isakeli Nacewa proved to be the difference – as the No.12 kicked two conversions and five penalties to secure his team a vital win over the six-time Super Rugby champions.

It was a patchy match with some sparkling moments, but fading away as the game wore on.

But it was played at a fast pace, at least early on and the Blues thoroughly deserved their victory for superior tactics and execution.

They whacked the Crusaders for the loose ball and so left them with scraps of possession. The Crusaders, strangely, were insecure on defence and shaky when handling. They may actually have been flattered by the score.

To many it was a surprise because the Blues have a poor Super rugby record against New Zealand sides, whereas the champion Crusaders last lost to a New Zealand side in 2004.

This was the first Super match played with the new four-command scrumming procedure. There were, till the end when the Blues were down to seven forwards, few resets though it seemed that there was a definite advantage for the team not putting in the ball.

Asked about it after the match, Corey Flynn, the Crusaders’ hooker, said that it was something to live with as it was, after all, in the interests of safety to front row players.

Paul Honiss blew the first whistle of the first match of the 2007 Super 14 and Isa Nacewa kicked off get the competition going.

The Crusaders started off like a house on fire, looking like champions who intended staying champions. But oddly they had just two bits of the half – the first few minutes and the last few minutes. In between the Blues dominated the match and it was a surprise that they were only 19-13 up at the break after the sides had each scored one try.

The Blues try was a wonderful piece of creative play, the Crusaders’ try made possible by a Blues’ blue.

There was a great deal of kicking in the first half, better by the Blues than by the Crusaders, but when play broke out it was fast and furious.

The start suggested it would be when play went from kick-off for 3 minutes 57 seconds before the first whistle went. Mind you play can go on forever if the whistle stays silent for infringement.

When the Blues were off-side, Brent ward, who plays for Auckland in the national provincial championship, kicked a long-range penalty. When Kieran Read played the ball illegally at a tackle Nacewa levelled the scores. When Troy Flavell rolled over a tackle and onto the ball gauche fashion, Ward put the Crusaders back in front.

Flavell was captaining the Blues and had some wonderful moments on the charge. Discipline has not been his strong point and after conceding two penalties in the first half he was sent to the sin bin with nine minutes to go for stomping on a knee and appearing to throw a punch. His scrum-half Steve Devine may well have been lucky not to have joined him for stamping, especially now that referees worldwide have been instructed to take strong action against feet on players.

Even after Flavell went to sit and watch, the 14 Blues kept a grip on the match and kept the Crusaders pinned in their own territory and looking anything but the smooth machine of yore.

In fact the only scoring opportunity in this period of play, as the rain started seeming out of the evening sky, belonged to the Blues – a missed penalty attempt but Isa Nacewa whose goal-kicking in the match was a definite positive for the home side.

At 6-3, the Blues scored a splendid try. It started not far from their 22 on the left with a brillia

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