By NZ Herald

The Crusaders produced two moments of innovative magic in quick succession to turn the game in their 26-15 win over the Blues in Christchurch last night.

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The game exploded into life midway through the second half when Rieko Ioane crashed over the line to give the Blues a 15-9 lead with 25 minutes to play.

But as Otere Black lined up the conversion from out in front, Crusaders winger Brayden Ennor stunted the Blues momentum.

As Black took a step back to begin his slow meander towards the ball, Ennor brilliantly burst off the line to charge down the kick.

That strike appeared to spark something within Crusaders standout Richie Mo’unga, who proceeded to push his side towards victory.

Not long after a cheeky quick restart from Mo’unga caught the Blues napping when he saw Blues fullback Beauden Barrett was sitting slightly deeper than he had been in the first half.

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That was all Mo’unga needed to expertly dribble a restart along the deck for himself to gather, before dashing deep into Blues’ territory.

“Sometimes I like to put things on myself, that was one thing I felt I could have done to change the momentum and change the way the game was going,” Mo’unga said.

“I had just been told Will Jordan was down, and Davie [David Havili] was down getting checked out on the in-goal. I sort of felt something had to happen.”

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Mo’unga then delivered a brilliant double pump cut-out ball that put George Bridge into space on the outside. Bridge found Mitchell Drummond back on the inside, and the Crusaders stole a one-point lead for the first time in the match.

Those were the moments that turned the match.

“We could feel the energy around the stadium, could feel the boys start to lift. That is rugby, that is momentum. Boys doing their job and doing it well,” Mo’unga said of his team’s finish.

Blues coach Leon MacDonald said it was the “little moments” that let his team down.

”We came and scored a fantastic try in the second half, and then they get a charge down on the conversion, which shows how relentless they are in everything they do,” he said.

“Then Richie is alert, like always, and does a little short kick and all of a sudden we are defending our try line.

“That is the Crusaders, a relentless outfit that keeps on putting pressure on. We chucked everything we had at them, we came really close and I’m really proud of the effort.”

This article first appeared on nzherald.co.nz and was republished with permission.

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