The Crusaders may have had a tough couple of weeks but there’s no doubt they have the edge on the Blues after beating them for the second time this season, 29-6. The victory gives them a home final to defend their Super Rugby Aotearoa title in two weeks time.
Even though the Blues got their share of possession, they looked too anxious. They missed seven tackles in the first nine minutes and couldn’t make the most of their attacking chances to stay tryless for the game. So many times in the last few weeks the Blues have made some great inroads into the red zone but attacks have fizzled out.
Here’re the Blues’ ratings:
1. Karl Tu’inukuafe – 7/10
Scrummed with glee giving Alaalatoa a bath and still energetic enough to feature with the ball after an hour. Off at 63.
2. Kurt Eklund – 7
Great to see a Blues hooker who is genuine Super Rugby standard. The set piece was reliable and Eklund worked hard in defence; the highlight getting the Blues off to the perfect start in the second half with turnover and penalty. Off at 60.
3. Nepo Laulala – 6
Added to the scrum effort but wasn’t as dominant as his partner. Off at 49.
4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti – 7.5
He is in very good form in the absence of his captain; prowling the centre of the field with brutal hits and powerful runs. Solid at the lineout, top takes from either team and didn’t stop trying against his much-vaunted opponents.
5. Sam Darry – 6.5
It was a game for him to prove he had the goods against his old hometown team. No doubt he did, the Blues lineout was right on the mark. Off at 66.
6. Blake Gibson – 6.5
Good turnover in the 1st minute but too much anxiety from Rieko and Clarke to take advantage of it. Blew a missed tackle of Will Jordan on the way to the line in the 6th minute, dropsies at 31 after a turnover. Off at 45 and the two open side experiment worked well.
7. Dalton Papalii – 8
Stepped up to the co-captain’s role very well. Was a pest at the breakdown and a pest for the ref; Doleman had had enough of him after half an hour. Three great turnovers and a leader on both sides of the ball; the Blues will need him next week.
8. Hoskins Sotutu – 7.5
Strong showing at right time, top metres and carries for his team. With injuries to Cane and Savea, Sotutu will be key for the All Blacks this year. Loved his neat stepping for his try attempt in the 18th minute.
9. Jonathan Ruru – 5.5
Lacked certainty with his passing from the base and that improved after Black came on. A number of defensive errors, most notably at 31 minutes at the base of the scrum that cost his team 30 metres. Off at 49.
10. Harry Plummer – 5.5
It would seem as though the injury to Tele’a was blessing in disguise after Plummer’s showing at ten in the first quarter hour, he missed a tackle on Jordan, a pretty adjacent shot at goal and Ruru looked tentative inside him. Once he was one out, he came back and defended well and ended up top tackler for his team. He tried to run straight on challenging angles at times and there was a good kick off receipt at 42 minutes. A black mark was a silly offside in the 34th minute from a kick.
11.Caleb Clarke – 6
After last week’s promise it wasn’t the perfect game for Clarke. Looking at the stats though you can’t fault 80 odd metres with 8 carries, but along with some of his team mates, he looked over anxious and was outplayed by the Crusaders outside backs.
12. Taniela Tele’a – N/A
Got smashed by Havili Talitui at 11 minutes. Off at 14 minutes and the Crusaders possibly looking for a new 7 for the final?
13. Rieko Ioane – 4
Interesting how the two co-captains responded to the leadership roles. Papalii was inspiring, Rieko was not. A catalogue of errors; missed Bridge 7th minute, sloppy pass off turnover, dropped ball at 11 minutes, a netball pass intercepted by Reece at 31, slow to a ruck at 37 and robbed by Mo’unga after a great Clarke run. It got slightly better in the second half but he dropped the ball at 49 and 67 minutes.
14. Mark Telea – 4.5
Such a shame the wing has not been able to match his exploits from the last few seasons. At around 48 minutes we saw one of his dazzling runs but they have been few and far between in 2021. Had a poor period just before halftime where he was penalised twice , off at 60.
15. Stephen Perofeta – 6
An up and down game for Perofeta. Had some good runs but an agonising error, a forward pass at 25 minutes, and could do nothing to stop Reece 2 minutes later for the Crusaders second try.
16. Soane Vikena – 6.5
On at 60 for a promising debut. Featured in a couple of runs in the first few minutes and ended up with 25 metres of carrying. Cute little throw in with his first lineout but penalised at the breakdown at 65. Looked the part and is one for the future.
17. Marcel Renata – 4.5
On at 63. Got pinged at 78 for collapsing and ended the game with a knock on.
18. Ofa Tuungafasi – 6.5
On at 49. Really does give the Blues go forward with ball in hand and a good handful of purposeful tackles.
19. Taine Plumtree – 6
On at 66. Staunch performance in contact.
20. – Akira Ioane – 7
On at 45. Some good barrelling runs, the best one at 69 minutes but again as we’ve seen in the last few weeks with the Blues, many attacks die in the red zone.
21. Finlay Christie – 6.5
On at 49 with good energy and will. Lovely read in defence on Reece at 65 minutes off the back of the lineout.
22. Otere Black – 6.5
On at 14 he got pulled in on defence by Havili to set up Reece for his try. Overall though his insertion into the game showed he is a settling influence and his flat running kept the Crusaders defence honest.
23. AJ Lam – N/A
On at 60.
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