Round 5 of Super Rugby Aotearoa opened this weekend with the most anticipated match of the competition thus far. The might and experience of the Crusaders hosting the resurgent Blues, who have emerged as genuine contenders for the title in 2020.

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Both sides went into the match unbeaten and even before the opening whistle, the fibres and essence of this match promised to deliver some quality rugby and extreme intensity, as these clashes historically have meant so much.

The game lived up to its billing and whilst the Blues won plenty of respect, they were ultimately ground down by the Crusaders machine with the hosts taking the honours 26-15.

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How did the Crusaders rate?

1. Joe Moody – 7/10

Used all his experience, toughness and guile to obtain dominance up front but it was hard-fought. Guilty of the odd penalty but worked himself hard in defence and contributed to his sides win.

2. Codie Taylor – 7.5

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Had several uncharacteristic mistakes in the lineout that put pressure on his side, yet he led his forwards directly at the collision. A warrior in defence tonight, as usual.

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3. Michael Alaalatoa – 6

Played tough but with not as great an impact as he has had in previous rounds. Didn’t quite find his rhythm in possession and did not feature as prominently in defence as he has in previous weeks. Still a very credible performance by ‘Big Mike’.

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4. Samuel Whitelock – 7.5

Was a workhorse in defence and secured his side a vital turnover when the Blues were deep on the attack. An intelligent, calming performance that was required when the pressure was on. The big man assisted skipper Taylor in guiding his side home to victory.

5. Mitchell Dunshea – 6.5

Had some quality moments without being spectacular. A percentage performance where he did what was required and didn’t put his side under pressure despite dropping off the odd tackle. Progressing nicely.

6. Tom Sanders – 7

Another quality performance by the Colonel. A wall in defence with few opportunities in attack. Looked to be physical without being uncontrolled. A good night out.

7. Tom Christie – 7

Showed he has a set of hands and impressed with his passing game coupled with his bread and butter work as an open side flanker. Worked well over the ball, securing a turnover, and made his tackles. A mature performance from still such a young player.

8. Whetukamokamo Douglas – 7

Tough opponent in Hoskins Sotutu but handled himself well. Whilst not as damaging in attack, put in a quality shift in defence and in tight which was exactly what his team needed on the night.

9. Bryn Hall – 6.5

Bit of a mixed bag as he didn’t really have much of a running game tonight and his kicking game wasn’t always on, but he chased one of his own poor box kicks and regathered to his credit. By no means a bad night out but, if anything, a wee but quiet with the ball in hand.

10. Richie Mo’unga – 8

Made some mistakes – like kicking the ball dead off an offensive penalty – but, by-and-large, had a very good night out. Saved a certain Hoskins Sotutu try by somehow getting his hand under the ball after a driving play off a dominant Blues scrum. He generally kicked well, choose the right option and his delayed pass to put George Bridge into space that led to the Mitch Drummond try was all class. What about that kick-off?

11. George Bridge – 7.5

Just a low mistake, high-quality rugby player who worked hard for his team. Despite missing an early tackle, to which he made amends for a short time later with a probable try saver, Bridge did his job tonight and did it well.

12. Jack Goodhue – 7.5

A few early mistakes but settled into his work with all of his usual abrasiveness. Dropped off the odd tackle but worked well with Tom Christie around the breakdown and secured a turnover. Whilst not making big meters with the ball, he was the dominant second five on the park.

13. Braydon Ennor – 7

Another no-nonsense performer who didn’t let his side down. Despite dropping off a tackle he made several important ones. His effort to charge down a Blues conversion attempt illustrated his dedication and attitude at the business end of the match which was, no doubt, inspirational.

14. Sevu Reece – 6.5

A little bit quiet tonight and got caught rushing up in defence too hard several times which put his side under pressure. Missed a few tackles but made up for it by looking for work and making some hard yards off the breakdown. Not his best night out.

15. David Havili – 6

Had a poor night in defence but made up for that with some elegant involvements in possession.

Replacements:

16. Andrew Makalio – 5

On in the 67th minute. Did his job.

17. George Bower – N/A

18. Oliver Jager – 5

19. Quinten Strange – 6

On in the 63rd minute and looked to impose himself. Made his tackles.

20. Sione Havili – 5.5

On in the 63rd minute and was guilty of taking on the Blues line one out on the pick and drive and got drilled, costing his side some momentum.

21. Mitchell Drummond – 6.5

Finished off a wonderful team and try and generally looked sharp.

22. Fetuli Paea – N/A

23. Will Jordan – 7

On in the 53rd minute and scored the try that put this match to bed in the 75th by running an educated angle in support. Will be pushing for a start next week but did the finishers job nicely tonight.

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