WELLINGTON – The Crusaders saw off an intense challenge from the Blues in a furious final quarter to complete a 26-15 victory in their Super Rugby Aotearoa clash in Christchurch on Saturday.
The home side have now won all four of their Super Rugby Aotearoa matches and ended the Blues’ seven-game winning streak across both Super Rugby and the local competition.
The Crusaders seemed to be sparked into a furious response when centre Braydon Ennor charged down an attempted conversion by Otere Black of a controversial Rieko Ioane try.
Ioane crossed in the 55th-minute when his side took a quick tap penalty following an attacking scrum that appeared to have been wrongly awarded by referee Paul Williams.
Richie Mo’unga then took a quick restart and gathered the ball which resulted in the Crusaders storming back, with scrumhalf Mitchell Drummond crossing to give the home side a 16-15 lead, their first of the game.
Mo’unga added his fourth penalty and then Will Jordan scored his fifth try in the last three games to maintain their four-year winning streak at Rugby League Park in Christchurch.
The match had been billed all week as the long-awaited reignition of an intense rivalry that stretches back in provincial rugby for more than a century with both teams unbeaten in the New Zealand-only competition.
The near sell-out crowd were not disappointed with the game played at near test-match intensity with the Blues creating immense early pressure.
The early momentum set up a 10th-minute try by Mark Telea before the Crusaders worked their way into Blues’ territory and forced a string of penalties, which allowed Mo’unga to ensure they were only trailing 7-6 at halftime.
The intensity continued in the second half with Black and Mo’unga trading penalties before Ioane crossed, which only sparked the Crusaders’ furious response.