Big wing Nemani Nadolo scored a try in each half
The Crusaders were forced to come from behind to secure a 21-13 victory over a determined Blues side in a tough New Zealand derby in Christchurch on Saturday.
The seven-time Super Rugby champions had trailed 13-11 at the half-time break, but a late burst of 10 points in the last 15 minutes saw them take four valuable log points and deny the Blues a bonus point in the process.
Big wing Nemani Nadolo scored a try in each half for the Crusaders, and although the blues played hard until the final whistle they will need to beat the defending champion Chiefs in auckland next week if they are to make the play-offs.
The game started at a frantic pace, with both teams failing to capitalise on visits to the opposition 22, and it was the home team that drew first blood through a Colin Slade penalty, with the Blues responding shortly afterwards as Ihaia West levelled the scores at 3-3.
The Crusaders were finding some space out wide and once they had made it into the 22 the ball was spun out to Nadolo who got over in the corner for the opening try which was confirmed by the TMO.
They kept the pressure on and stormed into the 22 once more with Kieran Read and Ryan Crotty making key breaks to get them right in front of the poles, but the Blues would have the lead as Frank Halai raced off his tryline to make an intercept and run the length of the pitch to score under the poles.
The Crusaders were back in front soon afterwards thanks to another penalty from Slade and the Blues responded by launching an extended period of pressure in the 22 which resulted in another penalty from West which put them 13-11 up.
Slade had two chances to give the home side the lead back just before half-time after a couple of big scrums from his forward pack in Blues' territory, but his kicks both went wide and the visitors went into the break with a slender two-point advantage.
The Crusaders made a determined start to the second half as they looked to take back control of the game, but it was a fairly scrappy passage of play from both sides with a number of basic errors creeping into the game.
The Blues managed to keep the home side pinned in their own half for long periods without breaching their defence, but eventually the Crusaders made their way into the opposition 22 where Charlie Faumuina failed to roll away in the tackle, so Dan Carter stepped up to put the Crusaders 14-13 ahead.
The Blues had put in a big shift on defence and started to fall off a few tackles, with Johnny McNicholl bursting through a gap in the 22 before being brought down just short of the line. The ball was worked out to Nadolo and the big wing forced his way over for his second try to give his side a crucial eight-point lead at 21-13.
Despite the fact that the Blues threw everything at them in the final stages, the home side hung on to record a valuable win in the end.
Man of the match: Kieran Read was impressive in his limited time on the park, whilst there were impressive touches from Colin Slade and Ryan Crotty. For the Blues Ma'a Nonu made a big impact along with hard-working lock Patrick Tuipulotu, but our award has to go to Nemani Nadolo who scored his team's only two tries and looked a threat every time he saw the ball.
For the Crusaders:
Tries: Nadolo 2
Pens: Slade 2. Carter
For the Blues:
Pens: West 2
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Kieron Fonotia, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Luke Whitelock, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Johnny McNicholl.
Blues: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Pita Ahki, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Luke Braid (captain), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Sam Prattley, 19 Hayden Triggs, 20 Peter Saili, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Francis Saili, 23 George Moala.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Mike Lash (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)