Watch: Rieko Ioane's unbelievable try-saving, game-saving tackle
The Blues’ defeat of the Crusaders will go down in the history books as their first in Christchurch since 2004 but despite leading by 14 points shortly after halftime, the victory was almost snatched away in the dying moments of the game.
Some well-taken opportunities in the second half – including a controversial try to winger Sevu Reece – allowed the Crusaders to well and truly work themselves back into the match and brought themselves within four points of their Auckland opposition.
With just over two minutes remaining on the clock and all the momentum in their favour, the Crusaders were hot on attack just metres out from the Blues line. After 10 phases of hit-ups from the forwards, Crusaders playmaker Richie Mo’unga pulled the trigger and swung the ball wide to unmarked replacement lock Dominic Gardiner 15 metres out from the line.
Gardiner, in just his third appearance for the Crusaders, was clattering towards the corner flag, en route to score the match-winning try – but Blues centre Rieko Ioane had other ideas.
Ioane, who was almost in line with the goal posts when Gardiner caught the ball, sprinted towards the sideline and was able to wrap his arms around the big second-rower as he surged for the tryline. Blues captain Dalton Papalii wasn’t far behind Ioane and also threw his weight into the tackle. With their might combined, the two Blues defenders were able to wrestle Gardiner into touch, despite a try looking all but certain when the Crusader caught the ball.
— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) April 15, 2022
It was, by all accounts, an epic defensive effort from both Ioane and Papalii and while the Crusaders had one more possession before the final whistle, they weren’t able to get themselves over the line.
Ioane, who only made the permanent move into the midfield from the wing last season, has at times been criticised for his positioning on defence. The 25-year-old has more often than not made up for that with his blistering pace, however, and while he had no business preventing Gardiner from scoring on Friday night, he somehow still managed to prevent the Crusaders stealing the game at the death.
Unsurprisingly, social media was awash with fans praising Ioane – and Papalii – for the incredible try-saver.
What a defensive display by the Blues to beat the Crusaders. That try-saving/game-winning tackle by Rieko Ioane was sensational.
— Jon Cardinelli (@jon_cardinelli) April 15, 2022
I know right, I never thought the main talking point of an Ioane performance would be a tackle into touch
— james (@bigtraderjames) April 15, 2022
Brilliant piece of wing defence from Rieko Ioane, just saying.
— Jared Wright (@jaredwright17) April 15, 2022
What a tackle by Rieko Ioane, what a match!!! #CRUvBLU
— Ndugu (@mulekezi_) April 15, 2022
Dalton Papali'i and Rieko Ioane. What a tackle??
— Dylan Jack (@dylmjack) April 15, 2022
Ioane was used by the All Blacks at centre and on the left wing last year but with Anton Lienert-Brown out with a long-term injury, head coach Ian Foster may have no choice but to hand Ioane the No 13 jersey that he covets so dearly – but given Ioane’s performances in that role for the Blues this year, that may have been the best option for Foster regardless.
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