Crusaders are the comeback kings

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 06:04

REPORT: The third week in a row the Crusaders came from behind to win a thrilling Super Rugby match, as they edged the Blues 33-24 in Christchurch on Friday.

Trailing 5-21 at half-time and 5-24 with just a half-an-hour to go, the Crusaders scored four unanswered tries to overtake a very impressive Blues team.

They had similar comebacks against the Highlanders and Reds the previous two weeks.

"It'd be quite nice if we started before half-time," quipped captain Sam Whitelock, whose team also trailed by 21 points against the Reds and 17 against the Highlanders before charging home in both games.

The result displayed the Crusaders' depth, with the seven-time champions missing All Blacks Israel Dagg, Seta Tamanivalu and Matt Todd, as well as Wallaby Digby Ioane.

It means the Blues have not won away against a New Zealand rival since March 2013 and they have not won in Christchurch since 2004.

They now have just one win from four and are rooted at the bottom of the New Zealand conference.

It was poor reward for a committed first-half display after the Blues received a public tongue-lashing from coach Tana Umaga during the week about their insipid form.

Skipper Jamie Parsons praised his team's commitment but said they "didn't click in the second 40".

"It hurts, but the reality is we've got next week against the Bulls and we've got to bounce back," he said.

"The season's certainly not over. I know people are going to say that but in our camp we're very positive."

The signs looked ominous for the Blues when they fumbled the ball at the kick-off, but they went on to rattle the Crusaders with their attacking intent.

Eliminating the errors and poor discipline of previous weeks, they scored three first-half tries, two of them to hard-running centre George Moala.

Crusaders' debutant Manasa Mataele, called up to replace his injured uncle All Black Seta Tamanivalu, put the home side on the board but they trailed 21-5 at half-time.

The Crusaders made a flurry of substitutions after the break and improvements in the forwards saw Peter Samu and Ben Funnell score tries off driving mauls.

They hit the lead with seven minutes to go when Mitchell Hunt converted his own try, then Mitchell Drummond put it beyond doubt with another five-pointer in the last minute.

Man of the match: George Moala was everything that was good about the Blues, especially in the first half - when he found holes in the Crusaders' defence almost at will. Al Black Sam Whitelock was the rock in the Crusaders pack that got the upperhand in that gruelling second half. However, our award goes to Crusaders flyhalf Mitchell Hunt, who not only directed the show masterfully, but also scored the try that put his team ahead at a crucial stage.

The scorers:

For the Crusaders:
Tries: 
Mataele, Samu, Funnell, Hunt, Drummond
Cons: Hunt 4

For the Blues:
Tries:
 Moala 2, Pulu
Cons: Francis 3
Pen: Francis

Teams:

Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Manasa Mataele, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Mitchell Hunt, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetu Douglas, 7 Jed Brown, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Sean Wainui.

Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 George Moala, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Jimmy Tupou, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Akira Ioane, 20 Murphy Taramai, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Ihaia West, 23 TJ Faiane.

Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Angus Mabey (New Zealand), Cam Stone (New Zealand)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 28 April 2017
Highlanders v Stormers 07h35 Dunedin
Cardiff Blues v Zebre 18h05 Cardiff
Edinburgh v Dragons 18h35 Myreside
Leinster v Glasgow Warriors 18h35 RDS Arena
Newcastle Falcons v Worcester Warriors 19h00 Kingston Park
Sat, 29 April 2017
Chiefs v Sunwolves 07h35 Hamilton
Reds v Waratahs 09h45 Suncorp Stadium
Force v Lions 11h55 Perth
Ospreys v Ulster 14h00 Liberty Stadium
Bath v Gloucester 14h00 Recreation Ground
Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints 14h00 Sandy Park
Saracens v Bristol 14h00 Allianz Park
Harlequins v Wasps 14h00 Twickenham Stoop
Leicester Tigers v Sale Sharks 14h00 Welford Road
Cheetahs v Crusaders 15h15 Bloemfontein
Treviso v Munster 17h05 Stadio Monigo
Kings v Rebels 17h30 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Connacht v Scarlets 18h35 Sportsground
Jaguares v Sharks 19h40 Buenos Aires
Sun, 30 April 2017
Brumbies v Blues 06h05 Canberra
RESULT SCORE
Sun, 23 April 2017
Clermont Auvergne v Leinster 27 | 22
Sat, 22 April 2017
Sharks v Rebels 9 | 9
Bulls v Cheetahs 20 | 14
Munster v Saracens 10 | 26
Force v Chiefs 7 | 16
Crusaders v Stormers 57 | 24
Highlanders v Sunwolves 40 | 15
Fri, 21 April 2017
Lions v Jaguares 24 | 21
Waratahs v Kings 24 | 26
Hurricanes v Brumbies 56 | 21
Mon, 17 April 2017
UP-Tuks v Maties 28 | 21
Sun, 16 April 2017
Bristol v Wasps 21 | 36
Northampton Saints v Saracens 25 | 27
Sat, 15 April 2017
Connacht v Leinster 24 | 37
Treviso v Edinburgh 21 | 6
SUPER RUGBY
MORE LOGS
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Brumbies 8 3 0 5 17
Reds 8 2 0 6 10
Force 7 2 0 5 9
Waratahs 8 2 0 6 9
Rebels 7 1 1 5 7
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 8 8 0 0 36
Hurricanes 8 7 0 1 33
Chiefs 8 7 0 1 33
Highlanders 8 5 0 3 23
Blues 8 3 0 5 17
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 8 6 0 2 26
Bulls 8 3 0 5 14
Cheetahs 8 2 0 6 10
Sunwolves 8 1 0 7 5
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 8 7 0 1 32
Sharks 8 5 1 2 24
Jaguares 8 4 0 4 20
Kings 8 2 0 6 10