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Heroic Blues score historic victory over Crusaders in Christchurch

By AAP
Finlay Christie and Dalton Papalii. (Photo by John Davidson/Photosport)

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The Blues have held firm to record a 27-23 win over the Crusaders in Christchurch – their first at the venue since 2004.

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The Blues had established a 24-10 lead shortly after halftime off the back of tries to Finlay Christie, Dalton Papalii and Kurt Eklund and were playing with a two-man advantage after David Havili had been sin-binned on the stroke of halftime for playing the ball on the ground following a Stephen Perofeta break, and Scott Barrett had seen red for a dangerous tackle on Alex Hodgman.

The Blues came so close to scoring once more, attacking inside the Crusaders 22, but a handling error cost them the opportunity and Havili returned to the field for the ensuing play. From that point on, the momentum started to swing back towards the Crusaders. First five Richie Mo’unga kicked a penalty then Reece scored his second try of the evening following a break from Jordan.

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Heading into the final five minutes, the Blues still held a 27-23 lead but it was very much anyone’s game – and the Crusaders looked to be finishing stronger.

A controversial decision with four minutes on the clock handed the Crusaders a five-metre scrum and when the try looked inevitable – with reserve lock Dominic Gardiner clattering down the right sideline – it took an incredible covering tackle from Rieko Ioane (aided by Dalton Papalii) to send the Crusader into touch.

The Crusaders had one final set of possession to nab a victory but the Blues held strong, securing the historic win.

“I don’t really have the words. For me it was quite emotional out there in those last 10 minutes,” captain Dalton Papalii said following the victory.

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“The boys just dug deep and I couldn’t have asked any more of my lads in coming down here and doing the job.

“All week we said it was finals footy and the Crusaders had the platform for too many years. To come down here and get the win was truly special.”

In the contest between All Blacks No 10s, Beauden Barrett for the Blues had the upper hand early over Richie Mo’unga for the Crusaders and created two first-half tries.

Fullback Will Jordan scored the first try of the match for the Crusaders from a dominant scrum, combining with Reece who put him into space.

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But Barrett broke the Crusaders’ defense in the 21st minute to create a try for No 9 Finlay Christie and sparked a short-side movement which led to a try to Papalii in the 31st.

With a two-man advantage, Blues hooker Kurt Eklund scored a try from a lineout drive in the 47th to put his team ahead by 14 points.

Beauden Barrett then was part of a tactical meltdown by the Blues who resorted to a pointless and inaccurate kicking game while still with a one-man advantage in the second half.

The tactic gave the Crusaders endless counter-attacking opportunities and brought Mo’unga into his own.

Mo’unga created a 50/22 in the 54th minute and from the lineout a long pass from Argentina back-rower Pablo Matera sent Reece over for his first try.

In the 71st minute Reece scored again in a movement which appeared to feature both a forward pass and knock-on.

That cut the Blues’ lead to four points and they were under pressure for the remainder of the match but held on to go top of the championship table.

Crusaders 24:
Tries: Will Jordan,Sevu Reece (2)|
Conversions: Richie Mo’unga
Penalties: Mo’unga (2)

Blues 27:
Tries: Finlay Christie, Dalton Papalii, Kurt Eklund
Conversions: Stephen Perofeta (2), Beauden Barrett
Penalties: Perofeta, Barrett

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