Despite having countless opportunities inside the Crusaders’ 22 to put points on the board, the Blues have had to rely on their counter-attacking instinct to keep themselves in Sunday’s Super Rugby Aotearoa showdown.
The top of the table clash got off to a slow start, with the two forward packs feeling each other out in the early stages of the game – with neither side really gaining the ascendancy.
Both packs took turns struggling at scrum time, with the Blues looking ominous early – winning multiple scrum penalties inside the Crusaders but not making anything of their opportunities before the penalties started flying the other way.
It was the Crusaders who scored the first try of the game, with Jack Goodhue pouncing on a perfectly waited Bryn Hall grubber that Akira Ioane wasn’t able to deal with in-goal – but the Blues struck back shortly after.
The Crusaders launched an attack from inside their own half and left wing Leicester Fainga’anuku found himself in a glaring hole – but couldn’t quite hold onto the pass.
Make just one mistake and the Blues will punish you ?pic.twitter.com/MX84h20r8v
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 21, 2021
Blues No 12 Harry Plummer picked the ball up off the ground and surged ahead, with the ball spread wide to right wing Bryce Heem from the ensuing ruck.
Heem was brought to ground and the ball was spun into the middle of the park – where the Blues’ attacking plays had so often broken down earlier in the game.
Fan favourite Caleb Clarke found the ball in his possession and, turning towards his own goalline, threw a line ball to flanker Blake Gibson – who was able to crush over the line with some attention from the final Crusaders defender.
The Crusaders challenged the score, however. Thanks to the way Clarke turned his body, it appeared that his pass had travelled forward – and the decision was sent upstairs.
Fans minds were no doubt cast back to last week, when a number of curious refereeing decisions were reached regarding forward passes but after a few looks upstairs, the try was awarded – and rightly so.
The Crusaders struck back later in the half with a typical lineout drive, with Codie Taylor the eventual scorer.
That, coupled with a solitary penalty to Richie Mo’unga, gave the visiting Crusaders a 17-8 lead heading into halftime.
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