The Blues produced a dazzling performance to thrash the Crusaders 34-15 at Eden Park tonight.
Questions had been raised as to whether last week’s victory over the Hurricanes was just a flash in the pan, a plucky one-off victory by a young and enthusiastic team.
Critics said the real test would come against an All Black laden Crusaders outfit hungry for success, but the Blues passed that examination with flying colours as they hammered the red and blacks by five tries to none.
Indeed while there was all the excitement and energy fans have come to expect from this new-look Blues outfit, what would have satisfied the coaching staff the most was the magnificent way they kept the Crusaders tryless for the entire game.
The team put their bodies on the line. Luke Braid worked tirelessly all evening, Tom McCartney performed with distinction at loosehead prop while Peter Saili continues to impress at number eight.
Rene Ranger is playing with the form that surely warrants an All Blacks recall and the Tongan back three of Charles Piutau, George Moala and Frank Halai combined superbly to give the Crusaders plenty of headaches.
The Crusaders were fresh off the bye but it was the Blues who looked the liveliest in the opening encounters as they held onto the ball and built pressure.
The Blues’ ambition to use the ball from any area of the field was clear from the outset, but the Crusaders were up to challenge in defence and when Francis Saili was caught holding on, Dan Carter had no trouble slotting the first penalty of the game.
It didn’t impede the Blues however as they continued to play the exciting and expansive brand of rugby that saw them attract a bumper crowd 31,014 fans at Eden Park, and they were rewarded for their efforts with a fine try after 10 minutes.
The enigmatic Rene Ranger, who looked dangerous all evening, made a half break and offloaded to Charlie Faumuina who surged forward, before Piri Weepu threw a wide pass to Steven Luatua who crashed over the whitewash.
Charles Piutau was penalised for holding on as Carter responded with another well struck penalty kick, but Weepu responded immediately following the re-start to restore his side’s lead.
Ranger was once again instrumental in the Blues’ second try of the evening as he took a short ball from Luke Braid and charged 40 metres downfield before offloading to Piutau who got the Blues to within five metres of the try line.
The ball was then once again flung wide as Frank Halai finished the movement in the corner.
The Tongan speedster looks to have a knack of finding the try line as he scored again five minutes later, his fourth in just two games.†
It was first five-eighths Chris Noakes who orchestrated the five pointer, floating a lovely chip kick over to the right wing as Halai plucked the ball out of the air and grounded it to score.†
Weepu’s conversion gave the Blues a comfortable 20-6 lead closing in on halftime, but indiscipline hurt the home side as Carter slotted three consecutive penalty kicks to narrow the score to 20-15.
The Crusaders looked more threatening in the second half as they began to bombard the Blues’ try line, but some superb work in defence, particularly by Luke Braid, saw them repel the visitors.
After soaking up all the pressure, the Blues then sparked into action in attack and it was Braid, his face bashed and blood soaked sporting the scars of battle, who came up with the try from close range.†
George Moala then put the game beyond doubt with a superb try five minutes from fulltime to give the Blues a resounding 34-15 victory.
The Blues’ next assignment is against the Bulls at Eden Park on Sunday afternoon.