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
Sat, 18 November 2017
Worcester Warriors v Northampton Saints 12h00 Sixways
Italy v Argentina 13h00 Florence
Leicester Tigers v Sale Sharks 14h00 Welford Road
Wales v Georgia 14h30 Cardiff
England v Australia 15h00 Twickenham
Wasps v Newcastle Falcons 15h30 Ricoh Arena
Ireland v Fiji 16h30 Aviva Stadium
Scotland v New Zealand 17h15 Edinburgh
France v South Africa 19h45 Paris
Sun, 19 November 2017
Exeter Chiefs v Harlequins 14h00 Sandy Park
Leicester Tigers v Bath 14h00 Madejski Stadium
Fri, 24 November 2017
Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors 22h00 Liberty Stadium
Ulster v Treviso 18h05 Kingspan Stadium
Leinster v Dragons 18h35 RDS Stadium
Cardiff Blues v Connacht 18h35 Cardiff Arms Park
Newcastle Falcons v Gloucester 18h45 Kingston Park
Leicester Tigers v Worcester Warriors 18h45 Welford Road
Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints 19h00 AJ Bell Stadium
RESULT SCORE
Fri, 17 November 2017
Gloucester v Saracens 23 | 17
Tue, 14 November 2017
France XV v New Zealand 23 | 28
Sat, 11 November 2017
France v New Zealand 18 | 38
Ireland v South Africa 38 | 3
Wales v Australia 21 | 29
England v Argentina 21 | 8
Scotland v Samoa 44 | 38
Italy v Fiji 19 | 10
Sat, 04 November 2017
Cardiff Blues v Zebre 37 | 8
Connacht v Cheetahs 23 | 15
Edinburgh v Ospreys 37 | 10
Barbarians v New Zealand 22 | 31
Kings v Ulster 36 | 43
Japan v Australia 30 | 63
Fri, 03 November 2017
Scarlets v Treviso 20 | 8
SUPER RUGBY
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Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Brumbies 15 6 0 9 34
Force 15 6 0 9 26
Reds 15 4 0 11 21
Waratahs 15 4 0 11 19
Rebels 15 1 1 13 9
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 15 14 0 1 63
Hurricanes 15 12 0 3 58
Chiefs 15 12 1 2 57
Highlanders 15 11 0 4 51
Blues 15 7 1 7 37
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 15 10 0 5 43
Cheetahs 15 4 0 11 21
Bulls 15 4 0 11 20
Sunwolves 15 2 0 13 12
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 15 14 0 1 65
Sharks 15 9 1 5 42
Jaguares 15 7 0 8 33
Kings 15 6 0 9 28